“Deeply disturbing” – LGBTI rights stall in Europe


The past 12 months have seen a disturbing standstill in advances in LGBTI rights across Europe, with an increase in political repression.

This was revealed in the latest ILGA-Europe annual Rainbow Europe Map and Index, which ranks the legal and policy situation of LGBTI people in 49 European countries.

Released every year since 2009 on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, Biphobia, and Intersexphobia (IDAHOBIT), the report ranks these countries on a scale between 0% (gross violations of human rights, discrimination) and 100% (respect of human rights, full equality).

“The past 12 months have marked an unprecedented year in the Map’s 12-year history, with almost no positive legislative change for LGBTI people in Europe,” said ILGA-Europe.

Malta was highest ranking country when it comes to the equality of LGBTI people. It was followed by Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal and Norway in the top five. The UK, which was once the highest rated European country, slid to number 10. The lowest ranking countries were Monaco, Russia, Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan in last place.

Despite clear commitments on rainbow family recognition, not one country has moved on partnership or parenthood recognition, said ILGA-Europe. After reporting positive changes in bodily integrity or legal gender recognition for many years, there is no change this year for intersex and trans rights apart from Iceland.

“It is deeply worrying to report an almost complete standstill on LGBTI rights and equality, especially at such a critical time for LGBTI communities,” commented Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, Evelyne Paradis.

“In the past year, we’ve seen increased political repression against LGBTI people, a stark rise in socio-economic hardship, and the spreading of LGBTI-phobic hatred on the streets and online across the region. Against this backdrop, the response from governments has to be more and better concrete action, to make sure people are more protected, not less. The human rights of LGBTI people simply cannot be something that you drop when circumstances are challenging.”

Katrin Hugendubel, ILGA-Europe’s Advocacy Director added: “So many legislative processes have been stalled in Europe over the past 12 months, in countries including Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. We also see the implementation of existing procedures, for example on legal gender recognition, worsening, including in Georgia, Spain, Serbia and Northern Ireland”.

“It would be easy to blame it all on political attention being immersed in the public health response to COVID-19 and the ensuing economic fall-out, but the reality is a lot more complex. In too many countries, progress is stopped because there’s increased political polarisation on LGBTI issues, because some elected officials no longer see gains to be made by supporting LGBTI equality, and because governments don’t see it as a priority issue,” said Hugendubel.

Evelyne Paradis noted that, “there is a silver lining in this story: if governments actively choose to do the right thing and take real action, our Rainbow Map can look positively different by this time next year.”

At least 15 countries, including France, Kosovo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Czechia and Ukraine, have LGBTI-affirming legislative proposals, action plans and policy discussions already on the table.

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