“If ever there was a time to put high political priority on LGBTI equality, it is now!”

BY DANIELLE MUSTARDE

Rainbow Europe 2019 has revealed not only a standstill but “a visible backslide on laws and policies safeguarding equality and the human rights of LGBTI people” in a significant number of European countries.

Officially unveiled in Oslo at the annual intergovernmental Forum marking IDAHOBIT 2019, this year’s Rainbow Map & Index is sending an unequivocal message to national governments and European institutions alike – “We can no longer ignore to the backlash!” 

“If ever there was a time to put high political priority on LGBTI equality, it is now!” said Evelyne Paradis, ILGA-Europe’s Executive Director.

“Last year, we warned about the dangers of thinking that the work was done. Sadly, this year, we see concrete evidence of roll-back at political and legislative levels in a growing number of countries.

“There is no more time to waste. In the current increasingly polarised social and political climate, laws and policies are often the last lines of defence for LGBTI communities.

“That’s why we need national and European decision-makers to redouble efforts to secure equality in law and in practice for LGBTI people.”

Decline is clearly noticeable on this year’s Rainbow Map, ILGA-Europe’s annual benchmarking tool, which ranks 49 countries in Europe on their LGBTI equality laws and policies.

For the first time in the Index’s ten-year history, countries are moving backwards as existing laws and policies disappeared: 

Poland no longer provides access to medically assisted reproduction for single women

Bulgaria removed all their administrative and legal procedures for changing name or gender marker in the official documents for trans people. 

Serbia and Kosovo did not renew their equality action plans. 

Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey are also countries which slide back on the ranking because of their governments’ failure to uphold fundamental civil and political rights.

The result is an increasingly unsafe and unsustainable environment for LGBTI organisations and human rights defenders in a growing number of countries.

The 2019 Rainbow Europe also tells the story of an evolving movement.

The 10th Index also introduces changes in the weight given to different issues it captures. As a result, it gives a more accurate picture of what LGBTI people really need and what matters to the lives of different parts of the LGBTI communities.

The message is clear: for our movement in Europe, equality and non-discrimination laws, legal gender recognition, bodily integrity, protection from hatred and violence, and family rights are all interconnected and equally essential for the full enjoyment of human rights for LGBTI people.

“For years, we have said that marriage equality was an important signifier of equality, but not the be-all and end-all for LGBTI people,” said Micah Grzywnowicz, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board.

“What is also crucial for our communities are effective laws to recognise rights of trans people to self-determination, robust protection against LGBTI-phobic violence and speech, equal access to reproductive rights, and prohibiting medical intervention on intersex children.”

Over the last 10 years, the legal and human rights situation of LGBTI people has dramatically changed and the patterns on the Map have started to show different stories year after year.

Every year, some countries surprise us by taking significant steps towards the best existing standards, leaving other countries, once known to lead on LGBTI equality, further behind. 

As Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, Darienne Flemington outlined: “To all governments who are serious about LGBTI equality, consider Rainbow Europe to be your roadmap! 

“We know what is needed and the formula for success is obvious: Laws and explicit policies matter. Political leadership matters.

“Add to this mix meaningful engagement with communities and civil society and you can make a real difference in the lives of LGBTI people.”

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