Which developments can we expect or not in 2021 on LGBTQ+ rights? Out Leadership’s Head of Global Advocacy Fabrice Houdart consulted his crystal ball on your behalf. Here is an overview of geopolitical developments which will impact the global movement for LGBTQ+ equality.
Starting with what we can expect to see. Here are 6 predictions from Fabrice.
The United Nations to publicly scale up its LGBTQ+ engagement. As Antonio Guterres enters the last year of his mandate (with many chances of getting a second mandate: the advantage of immobilism is that one does not make enemies) he will be under pressure from a Biden-Harris administration and global civil society to finally position himself on human rights. LGBTQ+ rights is the easiest “win” for him. Concretely, we expect Guterres to appoint the first LGBTQ+ adviser in the Secretariat within months.
The European Union to apply pressure on “hostile” European nations. The EU’s patience with Polish and Hungarian right-wing government is running thin. Beyond LGBT rights, they have been stifling overall human rights and freedom of speech in clear violation of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. As a first step the EU might start blocking EU-funded project with little impact on the vibrant Polish economy but more on a fragilized Hungarian economy. The EU will also start implementing its first strategy for improving the rights of LGBTQ+ people. Yet, 2021 will also be about preparations for the elections in Hungary the following year propping populism discourse and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric (also Post-orgy Hungary bans adoption by gay couples and cements marriage ban).
China to increase space for LGBTQ+ civil society. Between its clamp down on freedoms in Hong Kong, military action across the Asia-Pacific region, and accusations it covered up the initial spread of the coronavirus, China – which economy is performing well – is under huge pressure to better a tarnished international reputation. This will contribute to lift the heavy lid China keeps on its LGBTQ+ population (also read this July 20, 2020 article) as illustrated by the abrupt cancellation of Shangai Pride in August.
Japan to make stride ahead of the Tokyo games. Same-sex marriages are currently not legally recognized in Japan but pressure has been increasing for change as LGBTQ+ acceptance runs high among Japanese. The IOC is also placing human rights increasingly at the center of the games. As a result, we expect the government to enact their own Equality Act, a nationwide LGBT protection and anti-discrimination law, by the commencement of the 2021’s Olympics (also read this August 2020 article).
India to register fast progress on LGBTQ+ acceptance in 2021. While a minority (37%) of Indians accept homosexuality, this ratio could radically change next year as decriminalization has finally allowed LGBTQ+ people to come out of the shadow. A vibrant civil society with organizations like Pride Circle, Humsafar Trust or the Keshav Suri Foundation are taking steps to transform India into a model of acceptance and a motor for change in the sub-region.
A Very Gay Summer and Fall. LGBTQ+ people have disproportionately suffered from isolation. As the combination of the vaccination and testing effects come together, global events such as Pride, the (postponed) 2020 Summer Olympics in July/August, Copenhagen2021 in August (WorldPride and EuroGames) or the IGLTA Conference in Atlanta in September to be even bigger than expected.
Now for the things Fabrice does not expect to see happen in 2021.
The UK to play a leading role on LGBTQ+ rights. Between a political crisis, the aftermath of Brexit and Britain’s economy facing its “darkest hour”, there will be little space or budget for the UK to play a convening role. Trans rights, including the Gender Recognition Act reform, have already been put on the back burner by Boris Johnson’s government.
Concrete measures for the aging global LGBTQ+ population. While Covid19 has squarely placed the spotlight on the specificity of LGBTQ+ aging, it unfortunately remains an issue on the back burner of most LGBTQ+ organizations. However, as we look back to the disproportionate impact of the various aspects of the pandemic on LGBTQ+ elders, we could see a renewed focus in 2022 (Read: Lessons on Resilience From LGBTQ Elders).
Improvements in Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand. Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand face serious domestic political uncertainties and were hit hard by the pandemic’s economic impact. LGBTQ+ people that were already used as political pawns in Indonesia and Malaysia could bear the brunt of the clamping down on civic space. In Thailand, which passed a civil partnerships bill in July 2020, progress could also come to a halt.
More progress in Rome. Pope Francis, who was already isolated before the pandemic, has lost some momentum on institutional reforms. Lack of progressive messaging on priest celibacy or ordinance of women as deacons are seen as signs that he is fragilized. Next year will be devoted to regaining it and re-engaging with the Church (the Pope was just vaccinated).
A perfect storm in the US. An ugly tug of war between executive and judiciary in the United States will take place. As we wrote in a previous piece the domestic and international role of the United States on promoting human rights of LGBTQ+ people will be back on track in 2021 after a 4 years hiatus. For starters, within 100 days, the Biden-Harris will sign the Equality Act expanding protections to all LGBTQ+ people in the country. However, the danger posed by anti-LGBTQ justices will also come into play over several cases linked to so-called “religious-rights exemptions” to certain federal laws.
An end to Russia anti-LGBTQ+ antics. 2021 will see the third economic crisis Russia has faced in 12 years. History has shown that Putin dials up family-values rhetoric in this context. The tremendous geopolitical tensions between the US and Russia will also increase in 2021, inciting Russia to position itself as an alternative to the Democrats progressive views. LGBTQ+ people will continue to be pawns in these developments.
While 2021 should continue to see progress on LGBTQ+ equality globally, conservative trends in Russia, Indonesia or the US Supreme Court will create new opportunities for backsliding. In all these contexts the private sector has a key role to play in supporting grassroot movements and unequivocally send the signal that it stands for human rights.