A new report shows that 2013 has been a year of widening contrasts for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people in Europe, from marriage equality and legal gender recognition on one hand, to new forms of criminalisation of LGBTI people through the spread of anti-propaganda laws.

Launched to mark the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (17 May), the Rainbow Europe Map reviews the standing of European countries against essential legal benchmarks for LGBTI equality, while the Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTI People in Europe 2014 provides an analysis of trends and an overview of key political and social developments country-by-country.

Each country is assessed and awarded a mark based on six categories, potentially totalling 100 – but no countries came close to achieving 100%.

The legal situation

The review shows gradual progress in many European countries for legal protection of LGBTI human rights. However, it says, Europe as a whole is far from guaranteeing full respect.

Indeed, the European average on the measure of legal protection is still very low – only 36%, and the average for EU countries (46%) does not even reach the half-way mark. However, the gaps between European countries remain enormous and range between the top score of 82% (UK) and the bottom score of 6% (Russia). Most worryingly, 34 out of 49 European countries (including 14 EU Member States) are below 50%.

Paulo Côrte-Real, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said: ‘We definitely see improvements in several countries which adopt laws and public policies to ensure rights and protections for LGBTI people. But there is still huge amount of work to be done before we reach full legal equality across Europe. Too many countries are still below average when it comes to providing the basic legal protection against discrimination and violence.’

Since May 2013, the fastest climbers were Malta (up 22%), and Montenegro (up 20%), as Côrte-Real commented: ‘[This] shows that so much is possible when there is political leadership, especially when it is coupled with meaningful engagement of civil society.’

Some of the most significant changes reflected in the 2014 Rainbow Europe Index concern legal gender recognition. European countries are progressively becoming aware of existing gaps in the recognition of the rights of trans people, and as a result, more governments are starting to change their legislations to ensure better legal protection for trans people. But rights and protections for trans and intersex people remains one of the areas in which most progress needs to happen in Europe.

The social situation

The Annual Review 2014 highlights four main trends in Europe:

  • New forms of criminalisation of LGBTI people are increasing through the spread of anti-propaganda laws and some countries adopting laws and policies to restrict the human rights of LGBTI people (Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Latvia and Ukraine)
  • While there is a growing consensus on marriage equality, Europe also witnesses the emergence of movements against marriage equality (France) and in favour of legal bans to pre-empt future changes of definitions of marriage (Croatia, Slovakia)
  • Homophobic and transphobic violence remains high and is often fuelled and validated by some political and religious authorities; violence against trans people remains particularly of great concern
  • Discrimination continues to occur in almost all countries and in all spheres of the lives of LGBTI people