Generating the Evidence Base in Latin America & the Caribbean: A Unique Partnership to Collect Data on LGBTI Exclusion

| By Phil Crehan
Photo credit: Patricio Molina. Some rights reservedPhoto credit: Patricio Molina, Some rights reserved.

In Mexico, Amnesty International documents the story of a gay Honduran asylum-seeker forced to flee his country due to attacks that nearly took his life. Throughout Central America, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) shows that the average age of a transgender woman is 35 years old due to rampant violence. In Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico, OutRight Action International finds pervasive stigma against lesbian and bisexual women in the hiring process. In Uruguay, the LGBT Chamber of Commerce is now distributing a credit card to the community as a way to bypass discrimination when accessing financial services.

Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, there are testimonies of violence, discrimination, and even success for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. But what’s missing from these stories are the numbers to show the extent of the problem, as well as the numbers to show the extent of their contributions.

On November 15, three organizations launched a research partnership to generate the quantitative data to show the magnitude and effects of these stories. NGLCC Global, the international division of the U.S. National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), the Organization of American States (OAS) Department of Social Inclusion, and the IACHR LGBTI Rapporteurship committed to a long-term project to generate these data in Latin America and the Caribbean. The effort was announced during NGLCC 2nd Annual Global LGBTI Business Week at an event hosted by the OAS LGBTI Core Group of Member States and Accenture in Washington, DC.

As numerous global institutions have shown, the quantitative data gaps on LGBTI people are enormous. As the IACHR states in its definitive compilation of violence statistics: “the data collection mechanisms in OAS countries are very limited.” Without large-scale research initiatives or governments to collect data, this undercuts the ability of LGBTI people to represent themselves, their well-being, and their livelihoods. Essentially, this contributes to their invisibility. In turn, this stymies effective interventions from governments, the private sector, and international organizations.

This collaborative research partnership presents a unique opportunity to generate data and use it to promote progressive change—what many are calling an LGBTI research infrastructure. NGLCC Global, which convenes and brings the perspective of the private sector, has the analytical expertise to undertake cutting-edge research using established methods of accessing hard-to-reach LGBTI people, in addition to having partners in numerous countries throughout the region. The IACHR has the legal expertise regarding the international standards on the rights of LGBTI people, as well as the knowledge of the local laws and policies that affect their well-being. The OAS Department of Social Inclusion can convene pertinent stakeholders and governmental counterparts to facilitate research, and help advance the implementation of recommendations. On November 15, these organizations did not ask if they could create a research infrastructure but rather declared how they will do so—from data collection, to analysis, to interventions.

LGBTI issues will always be a human rights concern; however, this cutting-edge research offers new possibilities to advance inclusion by employing the use of socioeconomic and economic development lenses. When LGBTI people experience discrimination and violence, there are significant impacts on every level of society. On the individual level, LGBTI people experience lower development outcomes (health, education, employment, etc.), when compared to the general population. On a communal level, there are often group-wide abuses and systemic inequalities against subgroups. The exclusion of these segments of society can have a direct impact on private and public sector goals (including GDP as well as other human development goals).

For the public sector, in societies where there is less input into the health, education, and employment of its people, a “vicious cycle” can emerge where unregulated economic growth doesn’t meaningfully redistribute resources into the well-being of its citizens—particularly the marginalized. As the Permanent Representative for Canada to the OAS, Ambassador Jennifer Loten, remarked during the ceremony, “Inclusion is the deliberate choice to respect and celebrate diversity; it is a proven path to peace and prosperity, locally and globally.”

This socioeconomic- and development-based pathway opens new opportunities to measure and understand the extent of LGBTI exclusion, as well as the impact on society as a whole. It also offers new entry points to advance change, for the private and public sector alike.

Latin America and the Caribbean is an ideal starting point for this research. First, there are a growing number of protective laws as well as pro-LGBTI proponents within governments. Regarding the latter, many of these proponents want to know the economic impact of LGBTI exclusion and inclusion. For example, the Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations, María Emma Mejía Vélez, recently asked, “For us in Latin America… the evaluation of the economic exclusion of the LGBT community is one of these challenges… [This] is a moment of inclusion. How do we translate that into the practicality of governments, and even local governments?” Second, the region contains a diversity of LGBTI civil society organizations and networks—some of whom are already collecting data

In kicking off this research partnership, NGLCC Global, the OAS Department of Social Inclusion, and the IACHR LGBTI Rapporteurship will begin to generate the data to show the extent of the problem as well as the extent of the contributions that LGBTI people bring.

From left to right: Ernest E. Cordova – Managing Director, Accenture; Ambassador Hugo Cayrus Maurin – Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the OAS; Soledad García Muñoz –Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights at OAS; Ambassador Juan Aníbal Barría – Permanent Representative of Chile to the OAS; Dr. Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian – Director, Department of Social Inclusion at the OAS; Ambassador Jennifer Loten – Permanent Representative of Canada to the OAS; Phil Crehan – Director, NGLCC Global; Fanny Gomez – Senior Director of International Advocacy and Policy, Synergía; Justin Nelson – Co-Founder & President, NGLCC