Europe is Backsliding on LGBTI Rights

The group ILGA-Europe has released its annual Rainbow Equality Index and it shows a disturbing fact: in many places throughout Europe there has been no progress on LGBTI rights—and even some regression.

The Rainbow Equality Index, which was unveiled on May 13 in Oslo, ranks 49 countries across Europe on their LGBTI laws and policies with a zero to 100 percent rating. It weights different policies based on their impact on LGBTI people and their right to live equally and unafraid. While some of this is, of course, subjective, the index provides a useful yearly snapshot on progress or the lack thereof.

This year’s findings make for sobering reading.

Rainbow Map Equality Index

There are some countries that are doing great work in reaching for that 100 percent benchmark, with Malta now closing in at 90 percent. Yet other countries—like Azerbaijan, which sits at just three percent—lack even basic protections for LGBTI people.

Perhaps even more arresting, though, is the way in which some nations are reversing progress. Poland, for example, has stripped single women of the right to medically assisted reproduction, a key right for same-gender couples in the country who otherwise cannot access these reproductive services.

Bulgaria is another nation that has seen a backslide. In one broad stroke, the country removed recognition for gender change administrative affirmation, leaving trans people desperately vulnerable to systematic discrimination and even potentially violence.

As if there was any need for another reason to be concerned, several nations have seen their LGBTI equality rating backslide because they have failed to renew or failed to uphold broader civil rights laws. While this index focuses on LGBTI equality, it also indicates that broader civil rights across Europe are in danger.

“Last year, we warned about the dangers of thinking that the work was done,” ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis said in a statement. “Sadly, this year, we see concrete evidence of rollback at political and legislative levels in a growing number of countries. There is no more time to waste. In the current increasingly polarized social and political climate, laws and policies are often the last lines of defense for LGBTI communities. That’s why we need national and European decision-makers to redouble efforts to secure equality in law and in practice.”

Some of the apparent regression is actually down to a change in the way ILGA has weighted its criteria. ILGA quite rightly points out that priorities in the LGBTI community have changed, with trans rights (rightly) gaining much more focus.

“For years, we have said that marriage equality was an important signifier of equality, but not the be-all and end-all for LGBTI people,” Micah Grzywnowicz, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, explains. “What is also crucial for our communities are effective laws to recognize rights of trans people to self-determination, robust protection against LGBTI-phobic violence and speech, equal access to reproductive rights, and prohibiting medical intervention on intersex children.”

As a result, some nations—like the UK, which has marriage equality but also have laborious and medicalized processes for gender affirmation—have actually seen their ratings fall. The UK is still sifting through consultation responses, but with a heated anti-trans backlash in full swing LGBTI groups are concerned the government will not deliver on the full overhaul that is needed to make the gender affirmation process easy and humane.

The change in weighting, which LGBTI rights commentators have broadly welcomed, also allows other nations the recognition due when they advance policies and reforms to meet the needs of trans and intersex people. For example, Luxembourg has made significant political progress since just last year. It has also been a champion of LGBTI rights in the past 12 months. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel used his own lived experience as someone in a same-gender marriage to hold Arab leaders to account over their appalling record on LGBT rights.

This year’s Equality Index charts something were already aware of: the rise of populism in Europe is corrosive to all civil rights. Unless we can find a path toward healing tensions and returning to the center ground, the backslide on human rights will continue—and it will cost people their freedoms, their employment and even their lives.

Related at Care2

Photo credit: Getty Images.

35 comments

Lizzy Q
Lizzy Q12 hours ago

many thanks

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Hannah A
Hannah A14 days ago

thank you for posting

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Ingo Schreiner
Ingo Schreiner19 days ago

interesting information

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Doris F
Doris F20 days ago

@C2...what happens with C2 ?????
All actions are break down ! hmmmpfff :-(

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Daniel N
John N20 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Sandra V
Sandra Vito25 days ago

Thanks

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Sandra V
Sandra Vito25 days ago

Thanks

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Pam Bruce
Pam Bruce26 days ago

Sometimes it just takes time. But enough of the back sliding. We have come a long ways in recent years and must continue forward.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara26 days ago

more work to be done to overcome the various conservative medieval religions. ban all religions.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara26 days ago

Look at the dangerous situation developing in Birmingham, England, where parents taking small children to school are now being intimidated by groups of Muslims who do not want six year olds to be taught that some children have two mummies.

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