BRIEF

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

March 1, 2017


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Photo: Jake Fagan / World Bank Group

Highlights
  • Exclusion based on intrinsic characteristics such as gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) has adverse effects on economic development and is a key constraint to achieving the twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.
  • Committed to promoting gender equality and social inclusion, the World Bank has started to comprehensively approach SOGI inclusion throughout its analytical and operational work.

Context

Despite some legal and social advances in the past two decades, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people continue to face widespread discrimination and violence in many countries. This discrimination and violence leads to exclusion, and this exclusion has adverse impacts on both the lives of LGBTI people as well as on the communities and economies in which they live.

Increasing evidence indicates that LGBTI people suffer lower education outcomes due to discrimination, bullying and violence; higher unemployment rates; and a lack of access to adequate housing and health services and financial services. As a result, LGBTI people are likely overrepresented in the bottom 40% of the population. For the first time, the World Bank attempted to quantify this loss in productivity in a 2014 report titled “The economic cost of stigma and the exclusion of LGBT people: a case study of India.”

In many countries, it is especially difficult to tackle LGBTI exclusion, discrimination, and violence. First and foremost, there is deeply entrenched stigma against LGBTI people. Lack of an enabling legal framework, which often is a result of such stigma, is another important reason. In fact, over 70 countries continue to criminalize homosexuality.

A major barrier to addressing this stigma and SOGI-based exclusion is the lack of data on the lives of LGBTI people. Robust, quantitative data on differential development experiences and outcomes of LGBTI people — especially those in developing countries — is extremely thin. This data gap poses a challenge to the World Bank and other development institutions. Most importantly, this data gap puts in jeopardy the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and countries’ commitment to the principle of  “leaving no one behind” in the effort to end poverty and inequality.

Strategy

The World Bank approaches SOGI inclusion through our commitments on gender equality and social inclusion. The links between gender equality and development were well established in the “2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development,” while the importance of social inclusion in development was articulated in the 2013 report “Inclusion Matters.”

Inclusion Matters” and the aforementioned report “The economic cost of stigma and the exclusion of LGBT people: a case study of India” examine the unique way in which sexual orientation, gender identity, and development are intertwined.

Building on its work in HIV/AIDS over the last decade, the World Bank has taken a more comprehensive approach to SOGI inclusion throughout the organization’s management and operations.

SOGI issues have now been included in a number of strategic documents such as Systematic Country Diagnostics and Country Partnership Frameworks. There are increasing opportunities to promote SOGI inclusion through access to justice, access to education, access to a whole range of health services, access to the labor and financial markets, and through violence prevention (both bullying in schools and other forms of violence). 

In January 2015, the Bank established a SOGI Task Force to place a stronger emphasis on the SOGI agenda as well as to spearhead a coherent effort for SOGI inclusion. The multi-sectorial task force has members from different parts of the World Bank, which opens opportunities for influencing existing and forthcoming operational and analytical work.

In November 2016 the World Bank announced its first-ever SOGI Global Advisor. The Advisor provides intellectual leadership and technical guidance to World Bank teams, and enhances the Bank’s coordination with civil society organizations, UN Agencies, as well as other partners and stakeholders.

The World Bank has identified three key areas for improving the inclusion of SOGI in its overall work:

  1. Training: Sensitize staff and clients about SOGI issues and build their capacity to apply a SOGI lens in their work.
  2. Data: Focus on quantitative and qualitative data collection emphasizing the development outcomes for LGBTI people.
  3. Operations: Pilot initiatives and projects to improve the access of LGBTI people to markets, services, and spaces.

Results

As an active player in addressing SOGI issues, the World Bank is continuously working to strengthen its approach to SOGI inclusion. Examples of the Bank’s analytical and operational work include:

  • The “Economic Cost of Stigma and the Exclusion of LGBT people in India (2014)” examines the pathways of impact of stigma and exclusion including violence, discrimination, job loss, family rejection and pressure to marry, and harassment in school. Each one of these manifestations of exclusion may have negative implications for health, education outcomes, and productivity.
  • Two surveys were rolled out in early 2017, collecting data on LGBTI exclusion and discrimination in Southeast Europe and Thailand. Results will be available in June 2017.
  • In the Philippines, a Country Gender Assessment was informed by LGBT focus group discussions. Lessons learned included the importance of understanding local gender identities and norms, as well as the need to conduct additional data collection and research on SOGI issues.
  • SOGI issues were included in a series of Systematic Country Diagnostics and Country Partnership Frameworks in Thailand, Uruguay, and the Western Balkans.
  • The Equality of Opportunity Project followed the Women Business and the Law approach and collected information from lawyers and key informants across countries regarding the legal barriers faced by ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. 
  • The Bahia Inclusion and Economic Development project supported the Brazilian state of Bahia in strengthening public sector management, governance, and the delivery of services in education, health and public security, with a particular attention to the social and economic inclusion of LGBT groups (among others). This included the development of preventative procedures, training, and coordination to address violence and victimization of LGBT people.
  • In Rio de Janeiro, the Metropolitan Urban and Housing Development project supported a medium and long-term agenda for fostering social development through programs that include diversity and rights of vulnerable groups based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
  • Through the PNPM Peduli Program, the government of Indonesia implemented pilot interventions to address discrimination faced by transgender groups at the community level. The project supported civil society organizations that work on the economic inclusion and rights of LGBT groups.


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