Inclusive legal frameworks can play a foundational role in bridging the global equality gap for LGBTI people. For example, mandatory teacher training and better provision of educational materials and curricula could be possible solutions for the issues that Sara faced. Inclusive education can help eliminate discriminatory language and open avenues for employment opportunities of LGBTI people.
This first study looks at 16 countries, including Mexico, that represent different geographic areas, income levels, and inclusiveness of sexual and gender minorities, ensuring a diverse representation of the issues. Although most countries surveyed address discrimination against sexual and gender minorities in some way, no country has achieved full equality of treatment, and much remains to be done.
In tackling the problems Sara grappled with on a daily basis, only five of the surveyed countries have education systems with clear mechanisms for reporting cases of discrimination, violence, bullying and cyberbullying.
The Covid-19 pandemic also brought to the fore the vulnerability of sexual and gender minorities. As governments invoked lockdown orders, sexual and gender minorities found themselves at a disproportionate risk of interpersonal violence. The paucity of data in many countries renders such issues invisible, exacerbating the risks to the people affected. EQOSOGI highlights that data collection and analysis are essential to identifying and fighting discrimination.
According to the report, most countries surveyed also lack legal frameworks that allow healthcare providers to deliver services to sexual and gender minorities, including vaccinations, HIV prevention therapies, and gender-affirming treatments. Only three out of the 16 countries studied prohibit employers from dismissing employees based on their SOGI, leaving sexual and gender minorities more susceptible to losing their jobs, a risk that’s been exacerbated for many vulnerable people during the pandemic.
The good news is that important progress is being made on several fronts. Most of the sixteen countries studied do not criminalize people based on their sexual orientation. In general, LGBTI workers in the public sector enjoy stronger legal protections against workplace discrimination than in the private sector. Encouragingly, for Sara and other students like her, almost half of the countries surveyed have made the most progress in prohibiting SOGI discrimination, bullying, and harassment in educational settings and school admissions.
While more countries have taken important steps towards equality for sexual minorities, legal recognitions of and protections for transgender people are not yet a reality in most.
The study offers good practice policy actions that include providing training for public service professionals to better understand SOGI needs, abolishing laws that infringe on the rights of sexual and gender minorities, and legally requiring employers to respect the privacy of their employees.
Still, the existence of laws and regulations inclusive of sexual and gender minorities does not always ensure that sexual and gender minorities are free from discrimination; enforcement of these laws is crucial. What matters to Sara and many others is how well these laws are implemented.
Sexual and gender minorities are still among the most disadvantaged people, even in developed economies. EQOSOGI is a reminder that much remains to be done to design and implement laws and policies that will ensure equality of opportunity for all.