UNDER FRIENDLY FIRE: A STUDY OF FOREIGN CRITICISM EFFECTS ON LGBT RIGHTS CHANGE
The effect of human rights criticism on the adoption of progressive and restrictive human rights policies is a matter of scholarly debate. Some scholars argue that criticism can have a positive effect on human rights change, while others contend that it can lead to backlash. This dissertation examines the ability of the international community to stop or exacerbate human rights violations through state-to-state non-material pressure in the form of public criticism. I argue that the ability of a country to influence another target country's policy depends on their social relations. Specifically, the effectiveness of international pressure depends on the social relationship a target country has with senders. When states criticize an ingroup, this sends a strong signal to other ingroup observers about the expected standard of behavior and potential social sanction of violating the norm. However, the public condemnation of an outgroup creates a sense of national identity threat and induces more norm violation. I focus on LGBT rights as a case study of recent changes in rights protected and violated by states. While some countries have advanced rights in this area, others have witnessed a regression. This makes the issue of LGBT rights a contemporary contested issue in world politics where progress and backlash are both observed. I present a theory of state-to-state pressure to explain how criticism has both direct and indirect effects and can provoke positive as well as negative outcomes. I test my theory using a mixed-methods approach, combining quantitative analysis of a dataset of state-to-state human rights criticism, geocoded, text, and public opinion data with 50 interviews with diplomats, activists, bureaucrats, journalists, and scholars. My findings suggest that state-to-state criticism can be an effective tool for promoting human rights change, but its effectiveness depends on the social relationship between the sender and the target of criticism. This dissertation contributes to the growing body of literature on the role of social relations in international relations. It also provides new insights into the effectiveness of state-to-state human rights criticism as a tool for promoting human rights change.