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Wrecked Lives, Corporate Losses & Sluggish Growth: the Real Cost of Discrimination

04 January 2016


Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex people doesn’t just hurt people. It hurts corporate profits and costs countries tens of billions of dollars in lost economic output. That's the message of a new UN Free & equal campaign video, narrated by Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto and launched at UN Headquarters in New York on Human Rights Day.

In recent years, the UN Human Rights Office has documented serious human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bi, trans and intersex people in countries around the world. In a report presented to the Human Rights Council earlier this year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights pointed to evidence of “pervasive, violent abuse, harassment and discrimination affecting LGBT and intersex persons in all regions.”

Stigma and abuse often begin early. According to studies carried out in the United States , the United Kingdom and Thailand, between half and two thirds of LGBT students are regularly bullied at school and up to a third skip school to escape harassment.

Bullying, isolation and family rejection drive many LGBT youth to abandon their education altogether, with many ending up homeless on the streets. A recent study conducted by the Williams Institute in the U.S., up to 40 percent of homeless youth on the streets of major U.S. cities identify as LGBT or queer , compared with likely less than 10 per cent of the overall youth population. 

In study after study, rates of poverty, food insecurity and depression have been found to be far higher in the LGBT community than in the general population. A study by the Trevor Project found that gay and lesbian youth in the U.S. are four times more likely to contemplate or attempt suicide, compared with the general population – while trans youth are ten times more likely to do so

Every time someone from the LGBT community is harassed or driven from their job, it is not only an injustice for them, but a lost opportunity to help build a more productive economy. For example, a pilot study conducted for the World Bank last year found discrimination against LGBT people in India could be costing that country’s economy up to $32 billion a year in lost economic output. No wonder UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently called ending discrimination against members of the LGBT community "a human rights priority and a development imperative."

In recent years, businesses large and small have taken steps to make the work environment safer and more inclusive for their LGBT employees. Many have changed the way they do business with a view to better serving LGBT customers and, in some cases, extracting anti-discrimination commitments from suppliers up and down their supply chains.

You can watch the video on the economic cost of discrimination against the LGBT community below.

4 January 2016