LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Leadership: the key to unlocking LGBTI equality in Europe

Steadfast, committed leadership and visible equality trailblazers are necessary ingredients for advancing LGBTI equality according to the latest Rainbow Europe package, released today (Sunday, 10 May 2015) by ILGA-Europe. Our 2015 Rainbow Map, Annual Review and brand new Rainbow Europe web module all showcase the power that committed leadership to LGBTI rights can wield.

Launched in Montenegro, at the 2015 European IDAHOT Forum celebrating International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (17 May), the 2015 Rainbow Europe package highlights the complexity of the current situation for LGBTI people in Europe. 

“We witnessed several countries making historic strides, while others have stalled in terms of their equality development.” commented Paulo Côrte-Real, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board. “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.” 

Rainbow Map 2015 in brief

Malta’s rise to 3rd in our rating is undoubtedly the most eye-catching story of the 2015 Rainbow Map. This is an improvement of 8 places (11th in 2014) with an overall score of 77% (57% in 2014). These numbers only tell part of the Maltese story – the substantial legislative and constitutional progress over the past 12 months was the platform for this climb into the Map’s top 3. 

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%. Our colour-coded representation of the current legal and policy situation for LGBTI people in Europe ranks 49 countries according to our ultimate benchmark of 100% equality. The fact that no European country has yet reached this magic number, and that the European average is lingering at just 42%, tells European decision makers that there is much work to be done in the coming months.    


Top 3, Rainbow Map 2015    

Bottom 3, Rainbow Map 2015

1. United Kingdom 86%

47. Armenia 9%

2. Belgium 83%

48. Russia 8%

3. Malta 79%

49. Azerbaijan 5%


Annual Review – a national level snapshot

The Map’s fluid rankings are complemented by a detailed country-by-country analysis in the fourth edition of our Annual Review. It looks at the changes, both the positive advances and negative trends, that happened at national level in the 12 months from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2014 and several compelling themes have emerged. 
The recognition of the human rights of trans and intersex people came to the fore in a major way in 2014. Great steps forward came in the shape of Denmark’s progressive legal gender recognition law and through impressive standard setting, 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.

The sheer visibility of LGBTI advocates in public life was very 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 advanced at pace 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. 

Opposition to LGBTI rights also consolidated in 2014 in the form of anti-equality rhetoric – from anti-‘gender theory’ campaigns or in anti-‘Western messaging’ spread by Eurasian Union leaders which spread far beyond those countries' borders. 

ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis remarked: “The advances made in 2014, and in 2015 so far, do not just belong to ILGA-Europe. Our Map reflects them and we have supported them. But ultimately, they belong to the activists, to our member organisations and the political leaders who are willing to raise their head above the parapet and lead social change.” 

“As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Yogyakarta Principles and the 20th anniversary of ILGA-Europe in 2016, we have many hurdles left to overcome.” said 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.”

Download all the Rainbow Europe 2015 documents here