UK slides even further down rankings of most LGBTQ-friendly nations in Europe

Boris Johnson speaks from a podium

The UK has fallen out of the top 10 most LGBTQ-friendly nations in Europe.

Since 2009, LGBTQ+ advocacy group ILGA-Europe has ranked Europe’s 49 countries on LGBTQ+ rights, tolerance and equality in its annual Rainbow Map.

The UK topped the rankings in 2014 – something then-prime minister David Cameron boasted about. But in the 2022 listing, it was named 14th – four places lower than last year.

In its report, ILGA-Europe cited the failure of the UK’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission to protect LGBTQ+ rights, as well as the Tory government’s refusals to reform gender recognition law and ban conversion therapy for all LGBTQ+ people.

The government’s immigration reforms were criticised, with ILGA-Europe saying that the Tories’ plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda would “would expose LGBTQI asylum seekers to unprecedented risk of violence”.

On healthcare, the NHS’ overlong wait times for gender-affirming care and the High Court’s since-reversed ruling which barred access to puberty blockers were noted.

The UK’s decision to abolish the three-month deferral period for queer men donating blood was highlighted, though the report noted “the regulations still include anti-Black language by imposing a three-month deferral period on ‘anyone who has slept with someone from parts of the world where HIV and AIDS are “very common”‘.”

ILGA-Europe added that anti-trans rhetoric “continued to cause serious damage” in the UK. The BBC was singled out for its “transphobic articles” and its “smear podcast series on Stonewall”.

The report also noted alarm at the decision to give charitable status to the anti-trans “hate group” the LGB Alliance, as well as Liz Truss’ push for the government to withdraw from Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme and the government’s decision to cut funding for anti-LGBTQ+ bullying programmes.

ILGA-Europe’s advocacy director Katrin Hugendubel said: “The situation in the UK is a sad reminder that when governments don’t stand strong on their commitments to advance minority rights, a powerful opposition can use that space to spread hate and division.”

“The UK should hang its head in shame,” Jayne Ozanne, a former LGBTQ+ advisor to the British government, told PinkNews.

“To be in the same regressive group as Russia, Romania and Hungary should be a wake-up call to all – we are sleepwalking into a dangerous darkness, where some of our most vulnerable citizens are left undefended ans unprotected.”

LGBT+ activists and allies demonstrate outside Downing Street in a protest the UK governments decision to exclude trans people in a conversion therapy ban

LGBTQ+ activists and allies demonstrate outside Downing Street in a protest the government’s decision to exclude trans people in a conversion therapy ban. (Wiktor Szymanowicz/Future Publishing via Getty)

For the seventh year in a row, Malta topped the ranking. Denmark leaping seven spots from last year’s ranking to achieve second place.

Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia were praised for bringing forward more LGBTQ+ rights laws.

Other standard-bearers included Germany, which banned intersex genital mutilation, and France for prohibiting all forms of conversion therapy. Ukraine also rose one place for removing its restrictions on blood donations for men who have sex with men.

Poland ranked last place, with Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan also at the bottom of the leaderboard.

ILGA-Europe noted “a new dynamic” across the continent.

“Despite the new dynamic we’re clearly seeing, the situation remains fragile,” Hugendubel cautioned.

“A downward spiral of hostile political discourse, legislative stagnation and, in some countries, even withdrawal of LGBTI rights and freedoms is worrying.

“And while countries like Bulgaria and Romania, for example, have not been in the headlines, they are moving down in ranking, nearer and nearer to Poland, which is at the very bottom in the European Union.”

ILGA-Europe’s ranking of the UK comes after the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organisation, condemned the UK alongside Russia for its “virulent attacks” against LGBTQ+ rights.