Why Autocracies Fear LGBTQ+ Rights

Issue Date April 2024
Volume 35
Issue 2
Page Numbers 80–92
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During the past decades, the rights of sexual minorities have been subject to both expansion and resistance at domestic and international levels. This essay investigates the resistance to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) rights by focusing on the position of autocratic regimes in international organizations. It examines the history and evolution of discussions regarding SOGI within the United Nations (UN) and presents an analysis of the positions taken by countries in all SOGI resolutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Democracies and autocracies are clearly divided on the topic of LGBTQ+ rights, with the latter vehemently opposing proposals to expand sexual minorities’ rights. This autocratic resistance is rooted in fears of empowered minorities challenging the status quo and the perceived threat of SOGI rights as a gateway to broader liberal values. By leveraging cultural anxieties and joining forces with other nondemocratic regimes, autocracies exploit traditional values to resist the expansion of international liberal norms. The United Nations must adopt policy recommendations aimed at countering opposition to SOGI rights by emphasizing the universality of human rights, combating cultural relativism, and reframing the national sovereignty argument to garner broader support for SOGI rights.

About the Authors

Gino Pauselli

Gino Pauselli is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University.

View all work by Gino Pauselli

María-José Urzúa

María-José Urzúa is a doctoral candidate in politics at Princeton University.

View all work by María-José Urzúa