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London’s Pride event on Saturday 29 June will be a powerful celebration of diversity, equality, and love. Filled with colour, music, dancing, and inspiring speeches, Pride In London provides a platform to raise awareness about LGBTQI+ issues and promote inclusivity and acceptance in society. People of all sexual orientations and gender identities come together in London to honour the queer community and advocate for our rights. The march is a beautiful display of solidarity, acceptance, and visibility, sending a strong message of love and support to those who may still be struggling for equality. As we get ready to wear our latest sparkly outfits and party in celebration of who we are, QX thought it might be a good idea to report on the state of LGBTQI+ rights in Europe, courtesy of the 16th Rainbow Map which has only just been published. It comes as a timely reminder as to why we should still be marching.

Rainbow Map shows LGBTQI+ rights across Europe

The 2024 Rainbow Map, published by Europe’s leading LGBTQI+ organisation, ILGA-Europe, ranks 49 European countries on legislative developments in LGBTQI+ human rights. The Map reveals the authoritarian leaders across Europe that are still scapegoating LGBTI people to divide and mobilise their voters. On the other hand, some leaders are demonstrating a solid political determination to fulfil their commitments to promote and safeguard the human rights of LGBTI individuals.

In some Italian regions, parenthood rights for same-sex couples are being revoked. Efforts are being made in Slovakia, Croatia, France, and the UK to rewrite guidelines to limit access to trans-specific healthcare. Additionally, Russia has taken the unprecedented step of criminalising the ‘international LGBTQI+ movement’ as an ‘extremist organisation’. These developments highlight the crucial need for legal protections to guarantee fundamental rights, as emphasised by this year’s Rainbow Map findings. 

As Europe approaches several elections, including the upcoming EU elections, the protection of LGBTQI+ rights has become crucial in safeguarding freedom and democracy. This is especially important in the face of the increasing influence of far-right forces, as indicated by the new Rainbow Map.

Rainbow Map Findings

Many countries are stalling 

The Rainbow Map was published just one day after the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights’ LGBTIQ Survey III report. This report found that over two-thirds of respondents encountered hate statements and a significant increase in violence since the last survey in 2019.

“Across Europe, LGBTI people are being targeted by hate speech and violence and their human rights are being actively undermined, yet we still see too many countries across the region stalling in moving legal protection forward and not renewing their commitments through national strategies and action plans. This non-action is dangerous, as without proper legislation in place to protect minorities, including LGBTI people, it will be much too easy for newly elected governments to quickly undermine human rights and democracy.”

ILGA-Europe’s Advocacy Director, Katrin Hugendubel

Solid political will in several countries

The Rainbow Map demonstrates that certain governments are progressing in understanding this issue. With over 30 elections in the region this year, including the upcoming EU Elections next month, the Map indicates a strong political commitment to advancing the protection of LGBTQI+ human rights in several countries.

Greece, Germany, Iceland, Estonia, and Liechtenstein have significantly progressed on the Rainbow Map ranking. Estonia and Greece amended their laws to allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. Greece also improved its anti-discrimination legislation to provide full protection for LGBTI people. Liechtenstein extended adoption rights to same-sex couples. As a result of these changes, Greece has moved up to the 6th position in the ranking.

Several countries are putting measures in place to address hate crimes against the LGBTI community. Germany, which is now in the top 10, has prohibited hate crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics. Other countries, such as Bulgaria, Iceland (now ranked number 2), and Slovenia, are also passing laws against hate crimes. In addition, Belgium, Cyprus, Iceland, Norway, and Portugal have introduced bans on conversion practices, which are known to perpetrate violence against LGBTQI+ individuals.

Italy has fallen two places in the rankings due to a lack of legislative protection for many years. This demonstrates the consequences of inadequate legislation and the rise of far-right governments to power.

Backlash in Georgia and other EU accession countries

Most of the EU accession countries including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine, Kosovo, Montenegro, and North Macedonia are not fulfilling their commitments. They are delaying the introduction of necessary legislation, putting their citizens at risk of facing serious consequences and jeopardising their fundamental rights.

Turkey and Georgia, both candidates for accession, are actively violating human rights and fundamental freedoms. This includes their efforts to pass new legislation specifically targeting the LGBTQI+ community. Georgia, as one of the most recent accession countries, has been suppressing pro-EU protests against its proposed ‘foreign agents’ law, which is directly influenced by the Russian anti-LGBTQI+ playbook.

“The EU needs to pay close attention not only to the rise of political hate speech against LGBTI people, but also to new tools of oppression, like Russia’s criminalisation of a whole segment of the country’s population. The efforts at division and distraction from consolidated authoritarian regimes are further leaking into other European countries at a time where elections could push Europe into the hands of leaders who wish to shape a radical right, anti-democratic European Union. Europe needs stronger laws and policies to protect LGBTI people. Without these, we cannot talk about safety or about rule of law and democracy.” 

Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, Chaber

About the Rainbow Map

The Rainbow Map is an annual benchmarking tool created by ILGA-Europe. It consists of the Rainbow Map and Index as well as national recommendations. The Rainbow Map and Index has been published by ILGA-Europe since 2009 to provide an overview of the legal and policy situation for LGBTQI+ people in Europe.

The Rainbow Map and Index ranks European countries based on their legal and policy practices for LGBTQI+ people, using a scale from 0 to 100%.

ILGA-Europe examines the laws and policies of 49 countries using 75 criteria that fall into seven thematic categories: equality and non-discrimination, family, hate crime and hate speech, legal gender recognition, intersex bodily integrity, civil society space, and asylum in order to create the country ranking.

The Rainbow Map and Index provides an overview of the current policy landscape, while country-specific recommendations aim to address the question “what’s next?” These recommendations are designed to prompt policymakers to focus on the most urgent legal and policy issues within the context of our Rainbow Map and Index. The recommendations were compiled following an online consultation with a diverse array of LGBTQI+ organisations in different countries. As a result, the recommendations are customised to meet the needs of activists working on the ground.

This year, the Rainbow Map website has been relaunched with a new look and includes features that allow for an improved visualisation of the data, as well as a more agile and user-friendly access to the information.

Rainbow Map Summary 2024

Number one spot

Malta continues to occupy the number one spot on the Rainbow Map, for the ninth year in a row, with a score of 88%.

The countries making the biggest gains

GermanyIcelandEstoniaLiechtenstein, and Greece are the countries with the biggest jumps in scores. Germany prohibited hate crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics. While both Estonia and Greece amended their laws to allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children, Greece also filled the gaps in their anti-discrimination legislation to fully protect LGBTI people. Liechtenstein extended adoption rights to same-sex couples.

Iceland jumped to second place with 83 points with a rise of three places as a result of the new legislation banning conversion practices and ensuring the trans-specific healthcare is based on depathologisation. 

Belgium also banned conversion practices and now comes third place on the ranking with a score of 78. 

Countries at the other end of the Rainbow Map scale

Russia (2%), Azerbaijan (2%), and Turkey (5%). Russia lost 7 points and dropped 3 places because of the federal legislation banning legal gender recognition and trans-specific healthcare. 

Poland still sits at the end of the EU ranking with 18% points, followed by Romania(19%) and Bulgaria (23%). 

Montenegro lost the most points (-13%), dropping 9 places because it failed to adopt a new equality action plan or introduce updated policies on asylum and hate crime.   

Alongside Montenegro, governments in SpainSloveniaFinlandSweden, and many other countries failed to renew their action plans. 

FranceMaltaScotland and Wales adopted effective and comprehensive equality action plans. 

In many countries, legislative proposals that have been on the table for years are not moving forward. This includes the hate crime legislation and proposal for recognition of same-sex partnership in Ukraine, which despite endorsement by several ministries and support throughout society is still being stalled. It also includes a draft law on legal gender recognition in Czechia that would finally get rid of the sterilisation requirement. After five years of delay, the UK government still hasn’t followed its promises on banning conversion practices. And despite many court cases and recommendations from international institutions, Lithuania didn’t progress on recognition of same-sex couples.

Belarus began categorising LGBTQI+ content as “pornography”, restricting freedom of expression of LGBTI people. Bulgaria and Greece failed to protect LGBTQI+ public events, thus lost points in relation to civil society space. 

Both in Denmark and Poland, administrative procedures were improved for minors’ access to legal gender recognition (LGR). Although Germany and Sweden adopted new regulations for LGR, the laws have not come into effect yet, so they are not reflected on the Map. 

In many countries, legislative processes for new LGR procedures have been stalled this year. Similarly, no country prohibited unnecessary medical interventions on intersex children. 

Most European countries still don’t include sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics as qualification criteria for asylum. In an overall climate of governments increasingly undermining the international right to asylum, this ongoing omission is very worrying. This year’s only progress in this area was Czechia adding SOGI in their asylum law and Ireland providing a consistent training framework for their asylum caseworkers.

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