Why Democracies Haven’t Been Effective in Protecting LGBT Rights

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Oddly, just because a country has a democratic form of government, it doesn’t mean that they will be effective in protecting the rights of the LGBT community. There are various degrees of democracy and other factors strongly influencing ways in which laws are made and upheld. If you are among the many who question why democracies haven’t been effective in protecting human rights, among which sexual orientation is one, some of the following information may provide the answers you seek.

The Difference between a Democracy and a Republic

In a democracy, the majority rules. Every eligible voter has a say in laws which are enacted but those laws are not protected against government interference. A republic, on the other hand, votes in representatives that are sworn to uphold a constitution and it is that constitution that guarantees unalienable human rights. Try as they might, your rights are protected under a constitution in a republic and countries like the United States go a step further by creating a Bill of Rights. In other words, unless there are certain unalienable rights in place, the majority can be a fiercely tyrannical force against minority segments of the population.

How Human Bias Factors into the Equation

Then there is human bias to factor in. Even in democratic republics (a combination of the two types of government), it is wise to remember that our duly elected representatives don’t need to vote in favour of what their constituents want. Just like anyone else, they are prone to human bias, so their vote may reflect their views rather than the will of the people who elected them. This can also be taken into account in studies, for example, in this SOAS University study, a positive correlation between LGBT rights and democracy is documented, but it states that these results only depend on written law. In practiced law, human bias can have a large impact on how LGBT people are treated within the legal system, and these written laws can be ignored.

In many democratic countries, religious beliefs are the foundation of their ideologies and so they make no effort to curtail discrimination against the LGBT community. It may be a democracy, but if every vote has equal weight, what happens if the majority are fundamentalists diametrically opposed to same-sex relationships?

Political Self-Preservation

In keeping with the concept that legislative representatives aren’t bound to honour the wishes of their constituents, sometimes they are overly swayed by popular opinion. There are those politicians who know it is ethical to rule in favour of minorities, but the vast majority of their constituents aren’t of like mind. When public outcry becomes so great they can’t deny hearing the will of the people, they vote against their own conscience. Sometimes a politician would vote in favour of LGBT rights but is swayed by political self-preservation. In an effort to appease constituents, he or she votes against his or her own beliefs. This is how it should be, but when human rights are at stake, political self-preservation should never be an issue.  As a public servant, it is their job to ensure the rights of all.

Great strides have been made but further efforts are needed. Just because we live in democracies doesn’t mean that all freedoms are guaranteed. There will never be a time when all people are accepting of an LGBT lifestyle, but at least we can learn to recognise that everyone has rights they are entitled to live by. Until that day, maybe we can simply agree to disagree. 

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