In its annual ‘Freedom in the World’ survey and report released this month, Freedom House documented the 11th consecutive year of decline in global freedoms. Freedom in the World, which measures civil liberties and political rights in every country in the world, noted that “authoritarian powers engaged in brazen acts of aggression, while populist and nationalist forces made significant gains in democratic states. Established democracies dominated the list of countries suffering setbacks in the past year.”
This aggression often results in laws and policies enacted by the state that can shut down or have a chilling effect on LGBTQ advocates’ ability to organize. It can especially harm LGBTQ people who live in fear and isolation and can be publicly identified as targets for violence.
HRC Global Deputy Director Jean Freedberg attended the report release event in Washington, D.C. and noted that “as democratic freedoms decline, LGBTQ people in every part of the world, along with other vulnerable and marginalized populations, may face rising stigma, discrimination and challenges.”
The report noted that some of the world’s leading democracies, including the United States, suffered setbacks in political rights and/or civil liberties. Donald Trump’s populist campaign, hateful rhetoric, and eventual victory in the presidential elections in November raised anxiety among minorities including LGBTQ people, immigrants and Muslims about an imminent assault on their civil liberties. Freedom in the World noted that Trump’s “campaign featured a series of disturbing events, stemming mainly from Trump’s own remarks and the actions of his supporters.” It added, “Trump’s positions during 2016 raised fears of a foreign policy divorced from America’s traditional strategic commitments to democracy (and) human rights...”
Additionally, the Trump Administration, by shutting the door to refugees in its first week in office, “endangers the already perilous lives of refugees, and the standing of the United States.”
Freedom in the World highlights how authoritarian regimes in China and Russia have tightened restrictions on civil society. Punishing sentences imposed on Chinese human rights lawyers and grassroots activists have frozen civil society organizing. LGBTQ people in China have been making steady gains but still face many obstacles and a weak civil society will undermine that progress. In Russia, the Putin regime has persecuted and shut down critical NGOs that it considers “foreign agents.” Violence and harassment directed at LGBTQ Russians escalated sharply after 2013 when the country banned so-called “LGBTQ propaganda” and prevented same-sex couples from adopting children.
The world is set to face greater instability in 2017 as the chaotic Trump presidency gets underway in the United States and populist movements that threaten to undermine LGBTQ equality sweep Europe. While the Western political order that has provided invaluable leadership on global human rights, including on LGBTQ issues, seems to be in retreat, HRC Global is committed to fighting for equality and standing with LGBTQ advocates around the world. Read more about our work here.