Now Reading
Best and worst countries in Europe for LGBT+ people revealed as rights slide back

Best and worst countries in Europe for LGBT+ people revealed as rights slide back

  • Countries including UK lose points in annual rainbow map as LGBT+ rights come under attack with trans people on the frontline.
Crowd at METU Pride 2019.

A number of countries including the UK have lost points in the annual Europe Rainbow Map as LGBT+ rights stall or slide backwards across the continent.

LGBT+ organization ILGA-Europe creates the map each year as the major barometer of LGBT+ progress in 49 countries.

This year they warn that the fallout of the coronavirus could create a ‘perfect storm’ for LGBT+ people.

The pandemic has already seen dramatic attacks on LGBT+ rights. Poland is examining a bill which would damage LGBT+ education and which likens gay people to pedophiles. Meanwhile Hungary is trying to block legal gender change for trans people.

ILGA-Europe warns governments will use the COVID-19 pandemic to curtail human rights. And it says the Rainbow Map shows Europe is at a ‘make-or-break moment’.

The report accompanying the map says there has been no positive change in 49% of countries.

Meanwhile countries are moving back on the Rainbow Index for a second year in a row as they remove existing LGBT+ protections.

In particular, trans rights are on the frontline of movement across Europe – for better or worse.

And ILGA-Europe says it can see rights going back most clearly in countries that erode political and civil freedoms. For example, Turkey, which ranks 48 out of the 49 countries, authorities have repeatedly banned Pride events and arrested campaigners.

However, there is positive news for intersex people who are seeing greater protection from discrimination.

Best and worst countries in Europe

The Rainbow Index gives each country a score. 100% represents respect for rights and full LGBT+ equality while 0% is gross violation of human rights and discrimination.

The top five best performers in 2020 are:

1 Malta (89%)
2= Belgium (73%) and Luxembourg (73%)
4= Denmark (68%) and Norway (68%)

Just below them is Spain, on 67% with the UK, Finland and Portugal all at 66%. 

While these scores are high, it shows a number of the best countries in Europe are only two thirds of the way to full equality for LGBT+ people. Meanwhile France scores only 56%, Ireland 52% and Germany 51%.

At the bottom of the list, the worst five are:

45 Monaco (11%)
46 Russia (10%)
47 Armenia (8%)
48 Turkey (4%)
49 Azerbaijan (2%)

ILGA-Europe's Rainbow Map 2020.
ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Map 2020. ILGA-Europe

Trans rights on the frontline

ILGA-Europe reports that trans and intersex rights are the main areas which have seen progress.

The index rewards Andorra, Belgium, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, and Switzerland which have all adopted new equality laws to include trans and intersex people.

Meanwhile Iceland won points for updating legal gender recognition to allow trans people to determine their gender for themselves. Likewise, Spain won points for giving under 18s access to legal gender recognition.

However, trans rights are also under attack. Laws to recognize gender are stalled in Albania, Cyprus, Finland and Sweden. Meanwhile ILGA-Europe singles out the UK where anti-trans groups have delayed and attacked moves to update gender recognition laws.

Worse still for the UK, it lost points this year because ILGA-Europe says its ‘existing administrative and legal procedures that allow for name or gender marker change in official documents for trans people are not effective in practice’.

That puts it in an unenviable group of less progressive European countries, alongside Hungary, Azerbaijan and Serbia which lost points for the same reason.

Last month, the UK has threatened trans rights still further. New Equalities Minister Liz Truss launched an unprecedented attack on trans people. If her bid to change the law is a success it may restrict their right to access public bathrooms, limiting day-to-day life.

Viima Lampinen, co-chair of the ILGA-Europe Executive Board, warned trans hate is spreading across Europe. Lampinen said:

‘The news that more governments are adopting laws that protect trans, intersex and non-binary people must be read with extreme caution.

‘The safety and wellbeing of trans communities in Europe remains precarious. [It is] only made more fragile by governments’ responses to the current pandemic, which is affecting these communities particularly hard.’

‘A perfect storm for many LGBTI people in Europe’

The pandemic is one of the major factors that could create a perfect storm for LGBT+ people. 

Executive director of ILGA-Europe, Evelyne Paradis, said: ‘This is a critical time for LGBTI equality in Europe.

‘With each year passing, more and more countries, including champions of LGBTI equality, continue to fall behind in their commitments to equality for LGBTI people, while more governments take active measures to target LGBTI communities.

‘History shows that those who are vulnerable before a crisis only become more vulnerable after a crisis.

‘So we have every reason to worry that political complacency, increased repression and socio-economic hardship will create a perfect storm for many LGBTI people in Europe in the next few years.

‘Our call to put high political priority on LGBTI equality has never been more pressing.

‘The results of this year’s Rainbow Map show that equality measures are falling through the cracks in several countries, not because of lack of political and public support but because of widespread complacency about the need for LGBTI equality measures.

‘Fewer and fewer decision-makers are picking up the mantle to see important pieces of legislation through and keep political momentum, so processes are stalling or not being followed up.

‘There are reasons to be extremely worried that this situation will spread as political attention is immersed in the economic fall-out of COVID-19.’