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Rainbow Europe 2016 examines the situation of LGBTI people in Europe

Date

10 May 2016

Sections

Justice & Home Affairs

Changing laws and changing lives are not always the same thing: Rainbow Europe 2016 examines the situation of LGBTI people in Europe 

Officially unveiled today (10 May 2016) at the fourth annual conference to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and BiphobiaILGA-Europe’s 2016 Rainbow Europe package reveals an increasingly unequal picture of developments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people across Europe.

Rainbow Europe 2016 showcases the current state of play of the laws, policies and practices that affect LGBTI people in Europe today. This year’s benchmarking exercise shows three distinct patterns: 

  1. countries who are demonstrating leadership by introducing standard-setting equality measures; 
  2. countries who are now standing still, including some traditionally seen as progressive; 
  3. and the countries who are actively targeting LGBTI people with restrictive laws. 

The latest Rainbow Europe Map, which reflects legal and policy developments, confirms that a few countries are still setting new standards for LGBTI equality and are being propelled upward on our country ranking as a result. ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis noted “The countries who are on this upward curve tend to be the ones who have protected people from discrimination on the grounds of gender identity, or legislated to protect the bodily integrity of intersex people and who have ingrained this change in everyday measures such as equality actions plans. Malta’s rise to the top of the Rainbow Europe rankings for the first time is a prime example of this standard-setting in action. These advances represent very welcome progress.” 

Top 3, Rainbow Europe Map 2016

Bottom 3, Rainbow Europe Map 2016

1. Malta - 88%

47. Armenia - 7%

2. Belgium - 82%

48. Russia - 7%

3. United Kingdom - 81%

49. Azerbaijan - 5%

Unfortunately, too few countries fall into this first category. Speaking at the 2016 launch in front of an audience that included ministers from several European countries, civil society groups and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Evelyne Paradis remarked “Contrary to popular belief, LGBTI equality is far from being a done deal in Europe. The picture is actually very mixed at the moment: a lot of the governments that were leading the way on LGBTI equality a few years ago have slowed down their work, especially when it comes to new standards. In ILGA-Europe’s 20th anniversary year, we don’t want to see so many lagging behind. Now is certainly not the time for complacency.”

Brian Sheehan, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, also commented: “There is an inherent danger in thinking that our equality work is done when we achieve protection in one facet of life, such as equal marriage or parenting rights. Such successes can give politicians the adrenaline needed to keep working towards full equality. These achievements can be the fuel that propels us to further progress; slowing down the pace of this change is a lost opportunity. We must remember that these hard-won advances will only benefit LGBTI people if they are translated into into the daily lived experience of being LGBTI. Having a law is only truly useful if they are implemented. Changing laws does not automatically change lives. What LGBTI people all over Europe need from their governments now is continual, committed and collaborative action.” 

In the countries at the bottom of our country ranking, LGBTI people and their families are faced with a scenario where their rights are actively being eroded. ILGA-Europe’s latest Rainbow Europe package contains a stark reminder that Europe is not just damaged by slowing legislative process. The absence of supportive laws and policies is one thing, the legalisation of oppression is another threat altogether. Regressive laws, targeting both individuals and the work of LGBTI activists and NGOs, are a pernicious and real threat in many European countries. 

Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, Joyce Hamilton said “2015 has provided many timely reminders for both the LGBTI community and national governments. It reminded activists that our work is far from over. Regression is all too possible if we don’t work to shore up the change we have fought so hard for. Governments cannot be passive, especially those who blazed a trail for LGBTI rights in the past. Not only does their passivity mean that they will be bypassed on the Rainbow Europe Map, more importantly, it will give traction to those voices who are trying to undermine the equality gains made by the LGBTI movement. This is a wake-up call for all of us.”

Laws by themselves don’t automatically mean that life is easy – or even safe – for LGBTI people in all the countries at the top of the Rainbow Europe country ranking. A truly accurate picture is one that combines legal conditions and living conditions, that’s why it’s important to use our Map and the Annual Review in tandem. In 2016, for the first time, readers can now use our Rainbow Europe web module to go ‘behind the dots’ to read the national laws and see why points are awarded. Of course, the articles in the statute books need to be translated into real change for LGBTI people; this is also acknowledged in the 2016 Index as points are now only awarded for action plans where we have evidence that the plan is specifically working for LGBTI people. (Read more about the Map, Index criteria and the Annual Review’s developments in our executive summary.)

///ENDS

For more information please contact: 
Juris Lavrikovs, Communications Manager at + 32 2 609 54 16, mob: +32 496 70 83 75
Emma Cassidy, Communications and Media Officer at +32 2 609 56 50 

Notes for editors: 

  1. ILGA-Europe is the European Region of ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association and works for human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans & intersex people in Europe. ILGA-Europe represents 433 member organisations in 45 European countries: www.ilga-europe.org 
  2. The 2016 Map, Index and Annual Review are currently accessible here: http://ilga-europe.org/embargoed-documents Please note that they are all still strictly under embargo until 15:30 CEST on Tuesday, 10 May. You will need to use the password IElaunch2016 to open all three of the files. 
  3. All Rainbow Europe 2016 information will be available to access on our updated Rainbow Europe web module at www.rainbow-europe.org. The web module is a free online collection of all the data that lies behind the colourful Rainbow Europe Map, accessible to view on your desktop, tablet or smartphone.
  4. The 4th European ministerial IDAHOT Forum marking International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia takes place from 10-12 May in Copenhagen. For more information on the 2016 IDAHOT Forum, hosted by the Government of Denmark, please visit: http://eng.uvm.dk/Gender-Equality/IDAHO-2016 
  5. Rainbow Europe 2016 – executive summary

ILGA-Europe have produced the Rainbow Map since 2009, using it to illustrate the legal and policy situation of LGBTI people in Europe. Since then, the Map’s criteria have increased in scope and Rainbow Europe has expanded to include the country-by-country Annual Review and an interactive Rainbow Europe web module.

The 2016 Rainbow Europe Index, Map and Annual Review all contain valuable reminders for European policymakers and the LGBTI movement. 

Rainbow Europe Map and Index
The Rainbow Europe Map ranks 49 European countries on their respective legal and policy practices for LGBTI people, from 0-100%.

Top 3, Rainbow Europe Map 2016

Bottom 3, Rainbow Europe Map 2016

1. Malta - 88%

47. Armenia - 7%

2. Belgium - 82%

48. Russia - 7%

3. United Kingdom - 81%

49. Azerbaijan - 5%
 

For the first time ever, Malta appears at the top of the Rainbow Europe country ranking. Now at number 1 with 88%, the island nation has risen from third place in 2015. (Malta was 11th on our Rainbow Europe Index back in 2014.) Belgium is in second place with 82% and the United Kingdom completes the top three on 81%. Azerbaijan (49th place, 5%), Russia (48th place, 7%) and Armenia (47th place, 7%) continue to appear at the lower end of our Map.

In order to create our country ranking, ILGA-Europe examine the laws and policies in 49 countries using a set of criteria – from May 2016, the number of individual criteria used rises to 52. These criteria are divided between six thematic topics: equality and non-discrimination; family; hate crime and hate speech; legal gender recognition and bodily integrity; fundamental freedoms and asylum. 

Alterations to our Map and additional criteria make year-on-year comparisons difficult but certain lessons are clear – countries that are expanding their legislative horizons are moving ahead.

The need to closely watch how a law operates in reality is reflected in the updated Rainbow Europe Index criteria. From 2016, ILGA-Europe now only award points for action plans where we have evidence that the plan is specifically working for LGBTI people and that the plan is backed up with clear monitoring procedures – ‘pink-washing’ will not be tolerated. 

ILGA-Europe are also very proud to announce that policymakers, researchers and journalists are now able to go ‘behind’ the dots and see the original information sources that we base our Map and Index ranking on. This additional layer of information is available through our updated Rainbow Europe web module, adding more transparency to our standard-setting work – www.rainbow-europe.org

Annual Review

With the Annual Review, ILGA-Europe have compiled a detailed publication that lists the advances made at national level country-by-country in the 12 months from January to December 2015, our fifth edition. It also looks at the LGBTI equality work carried out by organisations such as the European Union, the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe.

Malta and Ireland created their own global ‘firsts’ in 2015. Malta’s visionary Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act made it the first country in the world to prohibit any unnecessary surgical procedure on the sex characteristics of a person without their consent. Ireland’s referendum saw it become the first country to introduce equal marriage by popular vote as an overwhelming majority of Irish people from all over the country voted in favour.

The rights of intersex people were given increased attention at both national and institutional level in 2015. Malta, Finland and Greece all included protections for intersex people in new legislation and the Council of Europe and the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency launched two very visible new publications. 

Hate speech and homophobic/transphobic violence are a perennial presence in our Annual Review; activists in countries from both ends of our Rainbow Europe country ranking reported incidents in 2015. 

Protection for LGBTI people and their families was also on the agenda in 2015. As the year drew to a close, long-awaited civil unions became a reality for same-sex couples in Cyprus and Greece. However, the route to recognition was more difficult in Italy, despite the well-publicised European Court of Human Rights decision in Oliari and others vs Italy.

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