Little progress for LGBTQ+ rights in the UK, new pan-European research shows

May 15, 2024

New research has shown that Europe is increasingly polarised over gay and transgender rights, as reports of hate crime and harassment reach record levels across the continent.

The annual ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map and Index, which ranks 49 countries on their rights protections, praised Germany, Iceland, Bulgaria and Slovenia for passing laws to tackle LGBTQ+ hate crime during the last year.

Despite widespread trans rhetoric in mainstream media and over social media, the United Kingdom rose one place to 16th, while points were awarded to Belgium, Cyprus, Iceland, Norway and Portugal for bans on so-called conversion therapy, a widely discredited practice that seeks to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

Conversely, countries such as Montenegro and Italy both fell down the ranking due to stalling policies on legislative protection. This follows Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni banning the listing of same-sex couples as parents on their children’s birth certificates last year. The practice had previously been done in some regions in the absence of any clear legislation.

Earlier this week, a survey from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights showed reports of violence and harassment against LGBTQ+ people had risen to a record high, with 14% of 100,000 respondents across Europe saying they had been targeted between 2018 and 2023.

Intersex and transgender people were found to be especially vulnerable, facing more violence and harassment than other minorities. Intersex people are born with atypical chromosomes or sex characteristics, meaning they cannot be easily categorised as either male or female.

“There are not enough protections against violence in Europe, both at an institutional and individual level – this opens the door for backsliding,” Chaber, ILGA-Europe’s executive director, said.

ILGA-Europe also said governments in Spain, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden had not renewed action plans to ensure LGBTQ+ rights progress.

Germany made the most improvement on the map, moving from 14th to 10th place, while Iceland moved up three spots to second place. Malta has topped the list for the ninth year running.

At the other end of the spectrum are Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia, the latter of which is now the lowest ranking country after introducing bans to trans healthcare and legal gender recognition last year. The country has also begun convicting LGBTQ+ activists as “extremists”, following a Supreme Court ruling last year.

The map showed many countries bidding to join the European Union, including Ukraine, Serbia and Albania, are falling behind in their commitments to protect LGBTQ+ people, while Georgia‘s “foreign agents” law, which activists say could target and marginalise LGBTQ+ groups, was likened to Russia’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislation by ILGA-Europe.

“The map is really showing us that Europe is becoming more and more polarised,” Chaber added. “LGBTQ+ people and their rights are used as scapegoats and being weaponised in discourse.”

To see all results, CLICK HERE