If the global commitment to eradicate inequality for all people is truly unequivocal, as leaders promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) claim it to be, the implementation of the SDGs needs to take into account the voices of those people who, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression (SOGIE), have historically been excluded from the benefits of development policies and programmes. This is the overarching message of a new IDS report on the relationship between the SDGs, gender and sexuality.
The report, entitled ‘Leave No One Behind’: Gender, Sexuality and the Sustainable Development Goals, is based on a comprehensive review of empirical literature on sexuality, gender and development, including primary research conducted by the IDS Sexuality, Poverty and Law programme.
Findings reveal social exclusion of populations on the basis of SOGIE in seven development priority areas: (1) poverty; (2) health; (3) education; (4) gender equality and women’s empowerment; (5) economic growth and opportunity; (6) safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements; and (7) justice and accountability.
In mapping these findings against the brand new SDG framework, the report highlights the importance of SOGIE-inclusive development in the post-2015 era. It argues that unless deliberate steps are taken by development actors at an international and national level, billions of people will be excluded from the benefits of international development because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBT discrimination impacts all dimensions of poverty
The report highlights how a focus on human rights violations among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations has been on civil and political rights and – with a few exceptions – less on socio-economic rights. The IDS Sexuality, Poverty and the Law programme has found evidence detailing specific disadvantages LGBT face with respect to all aspects of poverty including: lack of political clout, lack of information, barriers to social protection measures and material poverties impacting all areas of live including education, health, employment and housing.
Elizabeth Mills, author of the report and convenor of the IDS Sexuality, Poverty and Law Programme, said: ‘Findings from these studies reveal that policy and legal discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexuality and gender have a direct impact on multi-dimensional poverty, and need to be taken into account.’
Mills’ recent blog outlines in more detail some direct findings in relation to the SDGs including:
- SDG 1, End all forms of poverty: 70 per cent of all SPL studies found a direct relationship between income poverty and legal and policy discrimination.
- SDG 3, Health and wellbeing: 76 per cent of all SPL studies found a direct relationship between poor health outcomes and legal and policy discrimination.
- SDG 4, Inclusive, equitable education: 71 per cent of all SPL studies found a relationship between limited access to education and policy and legal discrimination.
- SDG 8, Inclusive sustainable economic growth: 77 per cent of all SPL studies found that legal and policy discrimination limited access to decent employment, frequently precipitating migration, and undermining in-country sustainable economic growth.
- SDG 10, Inclusive, safe cities: 100 per cent of all SPL studies found that, even in countries without enforced legal and policy discrimination, sexual and gender minorities consistently experienced at least one form of social, economic and political discrimination.
Implications for international institutions and national government
Giving evidence to UK Parliament this week, Mills stressed the need for visionary and collaborative work across international, national and local development actors.
At an international level, institutions like the United Nations that extend the reach of the global development agenda should be held accountable – against the principle of equitable development – for ensuring that development programmes reach all marginalised groups.
At a national level, actors such as the UK Department for International Development, should lead by example in relation to implementing the universal SDGs by also sensitising delivery partners and staff to ‘Leave No One Behind’ principles and how they should apply to LGBT and other marginalised groups and integrate this awareness into procurement processes.
Detailed recommendations for international and national development actors to promote inclusive development are included in the report. A policy briefing on donor strategies to more effectively integrate sexuality and gender into development practice will shortly be published
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Image: ‘Love locks on the Butcher’s Bridge in Ljubljana, Slovenia’, by Nathan Meijer