Sri Lanka and the ‘Pink economy’

Wednesday, 26 April 2023 00:26 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The decriminalisation of homosexuality has been a long-awaited move toward equality and the protection of human rights. While the Sri Lankan parliament and courts still deliberate on the matter, 129 of the 194 UN member states do not criminalise consensual same-sex sexual acts. In neighbouring India, for example, homosexuality was decriminalised in 2018 when the Supreme Court overturned colonial-era legislation that rendered same-sex relationships unlawful. 

While the decision was lauded as a major step forward for the rights of sexual minorities, it also has positive effects on the economy. Therefore, Sri Lanka should not forget about the potential economic advantages of decriminalisation.

Firstly, Sri Lanka’s image as a progressive democracy that values equality will improve. This superficially benefits our standing internationally and signals a tolerant image to outside parties such as our trading partners and visitors, which in turn brings in business opportunities. In certain cases, it also allows for direct concessions such as the GSP+ trade scheme that is heavily contingent upon meeting human rights standards. In this way, decriminalisation would also allow the “pink economy” to be set up. The pink economy describes businesses and the purchasing power of the LGBT community.

According to research by a think tank, LGBT+ travellers on average spend more money on travel and stay longer at their locations than their counterparts. Decriminalisation of homosexuality may also attract LGBT+ firms and entrepreneurs, who may be more willing to invest in nations that embrace such attitudes. According to the same survey, prejudice against LGBT+ persons can result in brain drain, as productive members of a society may leave their nation where they are not welcomed, in favour of more accepting ones.

By some estimates at least 10% of the adult population in Sri Lanka identifies as queer. These people, who are more at risk for depression and self-harm, would be protected within a legal framework. Therefore, decriminalising homosexuality may have an influence on worker productivity in addition to tourism and business. 

According to a World Bank analysis, discrimination against LGBT people can lead to lower productivity and higher healthcare expenses owing to stress-related disorders. Decriminalising homosexuality and fostering a more welcoming business environment can in turn boost job satisfaction, employee morale, and productivity.

Furthermore, decriminalising homosexuality has the potential to lower healthcare expenses. According to the same World Bank analysis, discrimination against LGBT+ people can contribute to higher healthcare expenses owing to stress-related disorders, drug addiction, and HIV/AIDS. Decriminalisation can improve healthcare results for LGBT+ people while also lowering healthcare expenses in the long term.

It is crucial to emphasise that, while decriminalising homosexuality can have considerable economic benefits, there are still many hurdles to employment for LGBT+ people. Discrimination and bigotry can still exist, and LGBT+ people may encounter difficulties to access employment in some areas. Decriminalising homosexuality, on the other hand, is a step toward a more inclusive and welcoming society that may benefit all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. It does not guarantee the end of social stigma nor foster equality in other regards. 

According to research conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, countries that have decriminalised homosexuality have better per capita income and higher levels of well-being. According to the analysis, there is a positive association between LGBT+ rights and the Human Development Index (HDI), demonstrating that the advantages of rights extend beyond just economic outcomes to human well-being as assessed by educational attainment and life expectancy. As Sri Lanka decides, we must remember that fortune favours the brave and proud.