Crystal Ball Gazing: Global LGBTQ+ rights in 2023
I like to think of myself as a modern-age Nostradamus: here are 15 predictions for the New Year
My 2022 forecast (here) was strangely not bad for once. Granted, some unexpected developments such as the war in Ukraine or Morrison’s defeat in Australia precipitated positive developments I had foreseen. On the other hand, the passing of the Respect for Marriage Act in the US (motivated by SCOTUS-gone-rogue), decriminalization in Singapore (possibly accelerated by Chinese warships) or the appointment of a French special envoy on LGBTQ+ rights (as a result of the Cayeux debacle) came as surprises.
Encouraged by this moderate success, here are fifteen prophecies of geopolitical developments which will impact the global movement for LGBTQ+ equality in 2023. Starting with what we can expect to see. As usual, I would love to hear your comments/rebuttal.
- Singapore: a vibrant LGBTQ+ civil society. Singapore’s half-hearted concession to LGBTQ+ rights in 2022 will unleash the vibrant and creative local LGBTQ+ community. While discrimination in public housing, education, adoption rules, advertising standards, and film classification will persist, the community will build its institutions with a particular focus on business as illustrated by the recent launch of an LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce (I also hope for a local chapter of the Association of LGBTQ+ Corporate Directors). Despite the amendment to the constitution, there will be progress toward the freedom to marry.
- Brazil: a reversal of harmful policies. Now that, in the words of Duda Salabert, Bolsonaro has been firmly deposited in the “sewer of history” (which must be overflowing lately), President Lula’s well-documented support for LGTB+ communities will undoubtedly become State policy in Brazil again. Hopefully this will lead to the return of those in self-imposed exile, like Jean Willys, and the end of impunity for countless violations, including Marielle Franco’s killing (Franco’s sister was just appointed to the Government). At least, we can expect an end to harmful anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in Government.
- Caribbean: social change acceleration and more decriminalization. In 2022, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis struck down laws criminalizing gay sex. One can expect a domino effect at this point. Criminal penalties remain in Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines but more decriminalization is expected. That could bring down the number of countries criminalizing gay sex below 60 in 2023. Read more on the topic here.
- Australia: World Pride in Sydney will embolden Asia Pacific activism. WorldPride is heading down under in February. Sydney World Pride, held in conjunction with Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, will make a lasting impact on the entire Asia Pacific region. Activists from Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and others will have an opportunity to strengthen links for greater progress in the region.
- China: easing clamp-down on LGBTQ+ issues. President Xi Jinping’s targeting of gay men will take a backseat as he is weakened by the anti-lockdown protests and COVID unraveling. We might even see a leadership change. Chinese LGBTQ+ activists will continue to adapt their messaging and activities to China’s changing landscape with a focus on the business and economic case.
- Colombia: validation of the gender approach in the Peace Agreements. The complex machinery put in place through the Peace Process in Colombia yielded in 2022 the opening of a mega case before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Case 11), which deals with violations based on gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. Given the impressive preparation work carried out by civil society with the participation of victims, the case will move forward fast and will create precedent on SOGI-based violence and discrimination during armed conflict.
- United Nations: a vibrant process to select the new UN Independent Export. Now that the mandate is consolidated and the current IE SOGI, Victor Madrigal’s tenure comes to an end in October 2023, it is to be expected that many qualified candidates will put their names forward — and myriad stakeholders have insisted to the President of the Human Rights Council and the Ambassadors in the Consultative Group that will run the process that competence, diversity and community representation are now more important than ever.
- Developed economies: the ESG backlash. A movement by financial firms and activists to challenge companies over their efforts on social inequalities, including LGBTQ+ rights, will face organized and growing push-back in 2022, led by interest groups such as Jay Blum’s (see my article here).
As a bonus, Andorra will affirm the freedom to marry in 2023 becoming the 35th country to do so.
DO NOT EXPECT
- India: progress on same-sex marriage. India’s Supreme Court, which tends to scan the overall context, will vote against a petition that seeks legal recognition of same-sex marriage as the public opinion remains unfavorable to homosexuality.
- Russia: improvement in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. While LGBT+ Ukrainians will see progress in the legal framework, LGBTQ+ Russians will experience the brunt of the artificial culture war waged by Putin. Expect more LGBTQ+ Russian nationals looking for refuge in the European Union.
- Italy: a truce on LGBTQ+ rights. Whilst the new far-right leader PM Georgia Meloni has repeated that she is not homophobic and will not attempt to repeal the civil union’s law, the rhetoric by her party and her refusal to advocate for LGBTQ rights will resurrect anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in the country.
- United States: an end to attacks on LGBTQ+ rights at the federal and local levels. Expect more of the same in 2023. Republicans in Congress will file anti-LGBTQ+ bills particularly targeting transgender people and LGBTQ+ young people in schools. At the state level, book bans will increase and several state legislatures will take up new anti-LGBTQ rights bills in 2023.
- Japan: progress toward the freedom to marry. There is now a consensus that the absence of legal protections for gay couples poses a grave threat to their rights. Activists will continue to press for change at the governmental and court level despite sluggishness. Japan will remain the only G-7 country without any form of union — but momentum is building including from the business community.
- Northern Triangle: human rights compliance for LGBTQ+ persons. One of the many casualties of never-ending erosion of democratic governance in El Salvador and Guatemala and corruption in Honduras has been the furtherance of national human rights action plans. No change is foreseen in 2023 as Governments entrench themselves and populistic discourse (including anti-LGBTQ+ speech) continues to yield political benefit.
- Venezuela: improvement in the refugee crisis. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has made Venezuela’s huge oil reserves an enormously attractive resource for both the US and its allies in Europe. That is quite a different place than, let’s say, two years ago, when the Guaidó dissident Government appeared to gain traction and the Lima Group recommended that it be recognized. High-level politics will mean little to the continuous flow of refugees and asylum seekers, including high numbers of LGBTQ+ persons, into all countries in the hemisphere and often with the ultimate goal of reaching the US.
For my semi-cultural desk friends, here is also a list of queer movies to look forward to in the new year and the Mirror’s take on Nostradamus predictions for 2023; apparently cannibalism is making a comeback.
Let me take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for your support this year as I launched my new ventures. It meant a lot. I also send you my sincere best wishes for 2023.