SoSoGay – May 11th 2015

The UK has came out top in the latest Rainbow Map, which covers equality and non-discrimination rights across Europe

The report, carried out by ILGA Europe, which works for human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans & intersex people in Europe, found that the UK achieved 86 per cent equality, closely followed by Belgium with 83 per cent and Malta with 79 per cent.

Co-Chair of ILGA Europe’s Executive Board, Paulo Côrte-Real, commented: ‘We witnessed several countries making historic strides, while others have stalled in terms of their equality development.’ He explained further that ‘the vital ingredient, present in so many of the countries who have climbed in our Rainbow Map rankings, was unshakable leadership from political figures and activist leaders, often in challenging contexts.’

With the introduction of same sex marriage in 2014, the UK reaching its peak position came as no surprise. However, Malta’s rise to the third position in the ranking – an improvement of eight places – impressed observers, with substantial legislative and constitutional progress over the past 12 months.

At the other end of the spectrum, the difficulties faced by LGBTI activists in Azerbaijan are clear; it lies at the bottom of the 2015 Map with only 5 per cent. The European average lingers at just 42 per cent, which tells European decision makers that there is much work to be done in the coming months. Azerbaijan is joined in the bottom alongside Armenia at 9 per cent and unsurprisingly Russia at 8 per cent.

Several compelling themes have emerged within the IGLA Europe’s annual review, which was conducted alongside the Rainbow Map. Denmark introduced a progressive legal gender recognition law and when Malta gave gender identity constitutional protection from discrimination. The Spanish region of Andalucía adopted similar provisions to the Danish model and The Netherlands removed previous legal gender recognition requirements for a court order, surgery and permanent sterilisation.

ILGA Europe also said that the sheer visibility of LGBTI advocates in public life was encouraging. From the openly gay mayoral candidates elected in Poland and Turkey to Latvia’s foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs coming out on Twitter and Conchita Wurst’s success at Eurovision 2014 – all have become symbols of the growing prominence of LGBTI people and their allies across Europe.

Family and marriage equality rights also advanced, with future marriage equality approved in Finland, enacted in England, Wales and Scotland, and to be decided in an Irish referendum in a few days’ time. Estonia became the first former USSR country to officially recognise same sex unions by passing an historic cohabitation act. Progress was not universal though; vocal campaigns for restrictive marriage definitions emerged in Slovakia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Says Joyce Hamilton, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board: “Homophobic and transphobic violence, hate speech and discrimination continue to be an everyday occurrence for some of our LGBTI neighbours. Let’s hope that 2015 will bring more examples similar to Malta and Estonia. Now more than ever, Europe needs political leaders to work with and for LGBTI people in Europe.’

Read the article on the SoSoGay site here.