Homophobia: The Economic Cost.
By admin November 7, 2014


As LGBT rights slowly become engrained and recognised in politics and society in many countries, in others, blaming the LGBT community remains a useful and popular political tool to distract attention from corruption and domestic problems, or even muster political support from religious and conservative constituencies. For example, facing re-election next year the Nigerian president, Mr Jonathan, decided to ride the anti-homosexuality wave, an issue which even the contentious Christian and Muslim communities in Nigeria agree upon.

Even as the UN passed a resolution on 25th September on sexual orientation and gender identity, gay sex is illegal in 37 of 54 African countries. It is therefore not surprising that in a continent where over 95% of Nigerians and Ugandans disapprove of homosexuality, out of 13 African members in the Council, just one voted for the measure, with 7 abstentions.

Anti-gay rhetoric and legislation is not isolated to the African continent however. In June 2013 the Russian Duma passed a law making, what it calls, ‘propaganda about non-traditional sexual relationships’ a crime. In the Western hemisphere, Jamaican vigilantes harass gay people as the police often watch and turn a blind eye, even as the prime minister Portia Simpson-Miller hollowly promises a vote of conscience on the country’s ‘buggery law’.

Even though it is clear that violence, displacement, lack of opportunities and lack of access to healthcare and education are just some of the experiences derived from homophobia, the economic cost of marginalisation and alienation remains unknown. Ms Badgett, an economics professor from the University of Massachusetts, estimates that homophobia has cost the Indian economy up to 1.7% of its potential GDP per year in 2012, or more accurately, around $30.8 billion. In direct health costs including depression, HIV disparity and suicide which is particularly high in the LGBT community, there has been an estimated cost of up to $23.1 billion for 2012 also.

As a result of the vacuum of information, the World Bank and other leading international financial organisations that have mapped out priorities following the Millennium Development Goals have shied away from advocacy policies needed to address LGBT rights. These same institutions however have calculated the costs of discrimination against women, racial and ethnic groups, which some argue present very similar traits to the discrimination against LGBT people since for example, their experience of exclusion and discrimination encourages the very behaviour that is stigmatised.

Nevertheless the calculations made on racial and ethnic discrimination for instance, relies on a prerequisite of reliable statistics. In the case of the LGBT community, especially in the developing world, this is extremely problematic especially as this deals with issues of sexual identity and fear, since those involved in potential data may become targets for violence.

Cautious of entangling itself in political debates since it is not a human rights enforcer or entity, the World Bank and other financial institutions will remain at arm’s length on the issue until they see quantitative data on the real economic cost of homophobia.

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