12/08/2021 Peter Durantine

F&M Professor Reports on LGBTQI Rights at Summit for Democracy Side Panel

Among the webinar discussions that will inform the agenda for the Dec. 9-10 White House Summit for Democracy, a Franklin & Marshall College professor presented a report based on more than a decade of work monitoring the human rights of sexual and gender identity minorities.

Professor of Government Susan Dicklitch-Nelson, the founder and co-creator of F&M’s Global Barometers for Gay and Transgender Rights, introduced the latest data, in report card format, regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex peoples who are often marginalized. 

While the Global Barometers are much more comprehensive in scope, examining society-level persecutions and other factors, the first LGBTQI-inclusive report cards examine the legislative protections afforded, or not afforded, LGBTQI people in their countries. 

“We’re looking specifically at what countries are doing either to protect, not protect or persecute their sexual minorities, gender-identity minorities and intersex individuals,” Dicktlitch-Nelson said. “The report card gives us something tangible.” 

In addition to Dicklitch-Nelson, the team that compiled the report cards includes Indira Rahman '18, research associate and project manager, project and data specialist Scottie Thompson Buckland and Erin Maxwell, a junior government and history major.

About 100 people, including civil society activists and representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), attended the virtual event, “Report Card on the Human Rights of LGBTQI Peoples: Measuring Democracy, Human Rights, and LGBTQI Inclusion.” 

The report cards use three dimensions to measure protection: basic rights, protection from violence, and socioeconomic rights. Each country is graded on a zero to 100 score. 

“We also look at indicators like the Economist Intelligencer Unit’s democracy index, freedom house, transparency international corruption perception index, the Williams Institute’s global acceptance index, fragile states index and the UN gender inequality measurement,” Dicklitch-Nelson said. “Countries can see how they’re doing within the different dimensions.”

Looking at some of the countries graded, Malta scores excellent while Denmark is fair, and the United States is failing.

“The United States scores 70% on basic human rights, 30% on protection from violence, and 50% on socioeconomic rights,” the professor said. “The places where we’re losing a lot of points involve hate crimes and hate speech; the United States has very specific ideas about hate speech, so we lose a lot.”

In addition to Dicklitch-Nelson, the webinar’s other panel members were Victor Madrigal-Borloz, United Nations’ independent expert on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI); Sarah Repucci, vice president of research and analysis for Freedom House; and Damon Wilson, president and CEO of the National Endowment for Democracy. 

The Council for Global Equality (CGE), a coalition of prominent U.S.-based human rights and LGBTQI advocacy organizations, invited Dicklitch-Nelson to present the report cards. 

“We decided at the Council for Global Equality to partner with Franklin & Marshall’s Global Barometer’s team in order to find an objective mechanism to really measure where in nations, the nations that would be invited to this Summit, stand on LGBTQI equality inside their own countries,” said Julie Dorf, a senior adviser for the Council.

In addition, Dorf said the Global Barometer’s research can “help identify concrete ways that the states can strengthen their laws and policies to genuinely create free and democratic societies.”

The report cards are based on 2020 baseline data that will be updated during the year of action to reflect advances over the coming year, Dicklitch-Nelson said. According to a CGE release, "We hope the 2022 report cards will reflect significant progress – and no major backsliding."

The White House invited 110 to the Summit, where countries choose what issues they want to focus on. The entire two-day event is virtual, but the 2022 Summit is expected to be held in person.

While CGE will use the 2021 LGBTQI human-rights report cards for two more upcoming events in the spring -- the Equal Rights Coalition Countries meeting in London and the International Lesbian Gay Association world conference in Los Angeles -- it is a starting point for a year of action that will occur in 2022 and culminate in the 2nd Summit for Democracy in December 2022. 

"Countries will have an opportunity to improve their scores," Dicklitch-Nelson said. "We will be working with civil-society organizations to code the 2022 data to see if there has been progress or backsliding on these issues." 

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