Can Transnational Norm Advocacy Undermine Internalization? Explaining Immunization Against LGBT Rights in Uganda

Document Type


Publication Date



Norm cascades often spark resistance from states under pressure to conform. Some react by further distancing themselves from the norm—a process known as “norm backlash.” We identify a particular kind of norm backlash: the creation of legal barriers aimed at fending off a transnationally diffusing norm by blocking the ability of local actors to advocate for it. We call this phenomenon “norm immunization” and provide an account of the conditions that bring it about. In this account, transnational advocacy increases the local salience of the norm, which is discursively constructed as a national threat that calls for defensive regulations against the advocacy of the threatening norm. Using this model, we analyze Uganda’s immunization against LGBT rights as instantiated in the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014. We find that the successful efforts of LGBT rights advocates elsewhere indeed precipitated the discursive construction of those rights as a national threat in Uganda, thereby unintentionally contributing to the adoption of the norm-immunizing law.


Copyright 2017 The Author

Publication Title

International Studies Quarterly

Published Citation

Nuñez-Mietz, Fernando G., and Lucrecia García Iommi. "Can transnational norm advocacy undermine internalization? Explaining immunization against LGBT rights in Uganda." International Studies Quarterly 61, no. 1 (2017): 196-209. https://doi.org/10.1093/isq/sqx011.



Peer Reviewed