Rainbow Europe 2018 is a wake-up call for anyone who cares about LGBTI equality

The 2018 Rainbow Europe package, launched by ILGA-Europe today, provides real evidence that progress on LGBTI equality law and policy is slowing down in Europe.

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The 2018 Rainbow Europe Map and Index reveal that fewer countries are moving up the country ranking; many are stagnating, including countries that are traditionally perceived as equality ‘frontrunners’.

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ILGA-Europe’s annual benchmarking tool, which ranks 49 countries in Europe on their LGBTI equality laws and policies, reveals a region where advances are not being made at the rate they once were. This lack of sustained progress on LGBTI equality issues should set off alarm bells for policymakers and advocates alike.

Against a backdrop of backlash on human rights across Europe, how can states possibly think the work on LGBTI equality is finished?” said ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis. “The incredible achievements of the past decade are at stake. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that we have achieved equality. There are too many signs that trends like populism and nationalism aren’t political buzzwords – they can have a lasting impact on the lives of LGBTI people in Europe.  There are too many signs around us that many of the recent wins are fragile. So let me say it again – we are nowhere near done.

Unveiled in Lisbon this morning at an intergovernmental Forum in front of high-level government officials, the Rainbow Europe Map is a stark reminder for national governments and European institutions of how easy it is for complacency to set in when it comes to enshrining rights firmly in law. Indeed, while Malta continues to feature at number one spot, other countries that are typically viewed as progressive are not among the Map’s frontrunners – including the Netherlands, who have actually dropped outside the Rainbow Europe top 10.

For ILGA-Europe, this stagnation is a worrying picture considering the current political climate of rising levels of populism, nationalism and civil society scapegoating, which have a particularly high negative impact on more vulnerable groups, like LGBTI people.

Joyce Hamilton, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board commented:  “Our communities unfortunately know all too well how vulnerable we are to undemocratic tendencies. Law and policies are often the last line of defence for LGBTI people so that is why we insist on making sure our countries’ legislation explicitly protects our human rights. And this goes for everyone within our communities – ensuring full equality for LGBTI people has never and will not stop at marriage equality!  All governments in Europe have to pick up the pace, stick to their commitments and make legal protection a reality for all LGBTI people, particularly trans and intersex people.

To the politicians in countries with consistently poor Rainbow Europe records and who claim LGBTI equality issues aren’t a priority, ILGA-Europe and our members stand firm:

Avoiding your responsibility to work for LGBTI equality is not an option for any political leader or government official in 2018. Now is the time for them to show leadership by fully backing policies that make equality an everyday reality for the people they serve. Across Europe, the only way for policymakers to protect the great LGBTI equality advances of the last two decades is to build on them and commit necessary resources to ensure that the everyday life for LGBTI people is transformed for the better. ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Europe package gives policymakers (at every level of the country ranking) very concrete recommendations for where they can start to legislate and make a real impact – and our member organisations throughout the region have even more suggestions. We have all worked hard together for these advances. It’s time now to push hard to make them real for LGBTI communities everywhere.” remarked Brian Sheehan, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board.

Rainbow Europe 2018 – executive summary

Rainbow Europe – ILGA-Europe’s annual benchmarking tool – is comprised of the Rainbow Index & Map and an Annual Review. 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 the Rainbow Europe package has since expanded to include the country-by-country Annual Review and an interactive Rainbow Europe web module.

The 2018 Rainbow Europe Index, Map and Annual Review all contain valuable information 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 2018 Bottom 3, Rainbow Europe 2018
1. Malta – 91% 47. Turkey – 9%
2. Belgium – 79% 48. Armenia – 7%
3. Norway – 78% 49. Azerbaijan – 5%


Malta continues to occupy the number one spot on the Rainbow Europe, the third year in a row that the island nation tops the country ranking (now on 91%). The entry into force of Belgium’s updated legal gender recognition procedure increases their position to second place overall (79%), moving just ahead of Norway on 78%. The three countries at the other end of the Rainbow Europe scale are Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey, scoring 5%, 7% and 9% respectively. These scores have not changed since the last Rainbow Europe Map was unveiled in May 2017, highlighting the political leadership gap and lack of progress on laws and policies for LGBTI equality.

In order to create our country ranking, ILGA-Europe examine the laws and policies in 49 countries using a set of 58 criteria and sub-criteria. These criteria are divided between six thematic topics: equality and non-discrimination; family; hate crime and hate speech; legal gender recognition and bodily integrity; civil society space; and asylum.

The Rainbow Europe 2018 individual criteria and the percentage ‘weight’ assigned to them remain exactly the same as the 2017 version, meaning that it is easier than ever before to compare a country’s momentum (or lack thereof!) on LGBTI equality laws.

As always, policymakers, researchers and journalists can 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 at www.rainbow-europe.org – just hover your cursor over the criteria to find links and additional info!

Annual Review

With the Annual Review, ILGA-Europe examines the advances made at national level country-by-country in the 12 months from January to December 2017, our seventh 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.

The Rainbow Map/Index presents a picture of what the policy landscape is like right now, while the Annual Review also attempts to answer the question “what’s next?

Recommendations for national policymakers have been included in the Annual Review for the second time. These are intended to encourage policymakers to address the most pressing legal and policy priorities within the framework of our Rainbow Map/Index.

While ILGA-Europe are urging national authorities to follow these recommendations, we did not come up with the suggestions unilaterally. The recommendations were gathered following an online consultation with a wide range of LGBTI organisations in the various countries. As a result, the recommendations are tailored to the needs of activists working on the ground.

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