How Targeting LGBTQ+ Rights Are Part of the Authoritarian Playbook

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09/07/2022

In the last three decades, protections for LGBT people’s rights have advanced rapidly in many countries and regions. However, rising populist authoritarianism poses a significant threat to this progress because abolishing sexual freedom is often at the heart of repressive political projects. The progress and backsliding in my home country, Colombia, illustrates the process of using democracy to erode rights. In 2016, Colombia seemed like a legislative paradise for LGBT people. That year, a pinnacle of legislative success was a Constitutional Court ruling that secured a range of family rights for same-sex couples, including marriage and adoption, and protection of LGBT students in schools. But toward the end of the year, there was another exceptional event. In an effort to end a brutal, decades-long armed conflict, the Andean country held a plebiscite on a peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas. Unexpectedly, a small majority of 50.2 percent rejected the agreement after a bitter and polarizing campaign.

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