Best and worst countries to be LGBTQ+ in Europe, revealed

ILGA Europe’s 2023 Rainbow Map and Index

The annual Rainbow Map ranking has named Malta as the best nation for LGBTQ+ rights in Europe for the eighth year in a row, while the UK’s score continues to fall. 

ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Map and Index has ranked European countries on the basis of their “legal and policy situation” for LGBTQ+ people each year since 2009.

The index ranks countries from zero to 100 per cent, with zero representing gross violations of human rights, and 100 representing full equality.

Countries are marked in seven categories: equality and non-discrimination, family, hate crime and hate speech, legal gender recognition, intersex bodily integrity, civil society space, and asylum.

The 2023 list published on Thursday (11 May) placed Malta top, with a score of 89 per cent. 

Rising in the ranks to fourth place was Spain (74 per cent), which ILGA-Europe said was due to the country’s ground-breaking introduction of a self-ID law for trans people.

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Until 2015, the UK consistently achieved the number-one spot in the rankings, but since then has slipped down the list. It was down in 10th in 2021 before falling to 14th in 2021. This year, the country dropped further still and now sits in 17th place.

The worst countries for LGBTQ+ people in Europe are Azerbaijan (two per cent), Turkey (four per cent), and Armenia (eight per cent). Those three countries have retained the bottom three places for the past three years. However, ILGA-Europe said Armenia rose slightly after revoking its ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men.

Previous reasons for the UK’s slide have been the government’s immigration reforms, including its plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda, which ILGA-Europe claimed “would expose LGBTQ+ asylum seekers to unprecedented risk of violence”.

Other reasons cited for the UK’s fall were long wait times for gender-affirming care and anti-trans rhetoric in the media. 

Author JK Rowling has also been specifically mentioned in ILGA-Europe’s reports in previous years, with the organisation claiming in 2021 that “anti-trans rhetoric continues to cause serious damage in the UK”, and describing tweets by the Harry Potter creator as “transphobic attacks”. 

Discourse around LGBTQ+ rights in Europe becoming ‘more polarised’

The organisation condemned anti-LGBTQ+ discourse in the media and public sphere, claiming discussion around the trans community has become “more polarised and violent”. 

It added that challenges to “freedom of assembly” had also been noted across Europe in the past year, with attempts in Serbia and Turkey to ban Pride gatherings.

However, it said that “despite intense anti-LGBTQ+ attacks in several countries, equality is still advancing across Europe”

ILGA-Europe’s executive director, Evelyne Paradis, said: “As powerfully evidenced in this year’s Rainbow Map, the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric from anti-democratic forces, particularly instrumentalising false anti-trans narratives, is being fought back by politicians in Europe who have the courage to make a stand for the fundamental human rights and equality of every citizen.

“The map highlights the clear fact that progress for LGBTQ+ people is still possible, and, more important than ever… the need for more leaders to push back on attacks on democracy for all by pushing forward. 

“We commend those politicians who have taken the stance that needs to be taken for the good of everyone in our society, and we encourage more to step up to the plate, as, across Europe, democracy and human rights are under threat from the far right.”

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