Direct and Indirect Pressure on LGBT Rights

In this virtual workshop, Gino Pauselli presented his recent work on peer pressure around LGBT rights.

Paper Abstract

When do countries adopt pro- and anti-human rights policies? In this paper, I study how criticism from Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFAs) affect the adoption of pro- and anti-LGBT policy in third countries. By centering the attention on state-to-state relationships, I advance a theory of peer pressure to explain the role of the international community in the diffusion of human rights norms. First, I distinguish between direct peer pressure and indirect peer pressure from other forms of influence. Second, I argue that the bilateral relationship between the sender MFA and a target country affects the ability of the former to influence the latter as well as the probability of backlash. I present five hypotheses derived from the theoretical framework and test them against alternative explanations using newly collected data of MFAs’ press releases. I find that direct pressure from like-minded countries increases the likelihood of adopting pro-LGBT policy while direct pressure from unlike-minded countries increases the likelihood of anti-LGBT policy adoption. Moreover, observers of criticism are also likely to alter their human rights policies depending on the social relationship they maintain with the criticizing country.


  • Gino Pauselli (presenter) is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Tina Kempin-Reuter is Director of the Institute for Human Rights at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
  • Phillip Ayoub is Professor of International Relations at University College London.