LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Rainbow Europe 2021

Among the key findings from this year’s Rainbow Europe are:

  • Against a background of hardly any positive change at all, countries such as Albania, Finland and Portugal have moved up in the ranking, but only because of very small changes implemented.
  • Despite clear commitments on rainbow family recognition, not one country has moved on partnership or parenthood recognition.
  • After reporting positive changes in bodily integrity or legal gender recognition for many years, there is no change this year for intersex and trans rights apart from Iceland.
  • On a positive note, some countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia) now have points on freedom of assembly, reflecting improvements of safety for public LGBTI events.
  • For the sixth year in a row, Malta continues to occupy the number one spot on the Rainbow Europe Map, while Belgium comes second place for the fourth time, and Luxembourg occupies the third spot on the ranking for the third year in a row. 
  • The three countries at the bottom end of the Rainbow Europe Map are Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Armenia, exactly the same as last year. 
  • For the second year in a row, Poland continues to occupy the lowest ranking in the EU.
  • Ukraine has gone down four places from 36 to 40, due to the expiration of its government’s action plan, while Georgia has gone down two places, from 30 to 32, due to the lack of clear procedure for legal gender recognition and the risky situation of LGBTI human rights defenders in the country.
  • Malta, North Macedonia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina are the three countries with the biggest jump in scores. Malta added sex characteristics under protected grounds in the Refugees Act and published new policy guidelines for LGBTI asylum claims, while in both North Macedonia and Bosnia & Herzegovina freedom of assembly has been improving. 

Published on Monday, May 17 2021, ILGA-Europe’s annual Rainbow Europe Map and Index, ranking the legal and policy situation of LGBTI people in 49 European countries, finds that over the past 12 months advances in LGBTI rights have come to almost a complete standstill. But, with legislative proposals and action plans on the table in some countries, governments now have the opportunity to ensure the Rainbow Map will look very different this time next year.


Rainbow Map and Index 2021

  • Download the Rainbow Map 2021 in PDF and PNG formats.
  • Download the Rainbow Index 2021 in PDF and PNG formats.

Executive Summary

Rainbow Europe – ILGA-Europe’s annual benchmarking tool – comprises the Rainbow Map and Index and national recommendations. ILGA-Europe have produced the Rainbow Map and Index since 2009, using it to illustrate the legal and policy situation of LGBTI people in Europe.

The Rainbow Map and Index ranks 49 European countries on their respective legal and policy practices for LGBTI people, from 0-100%.

In order to create our country ranking, ILGA-Europe examine the laws and policies in 49 countries using a set of criteria. From May 2021, the number of individual criteria used has risen to 71, divided between six thematic categories: equality and non-discrimination; family; hate crime and hate speech; legal gender recognition and bodily integrity; civil society space; and asylum. More information on the list of criteria and their weight on the total score can be found at www.rainbow-europe.org/about 

Rainbow Europe 2021 categories and the percentage ‘weight’ assigned to them remain exactly the same as the 2020 version. ILGA-Europe started assessing two new indicators: “Non-binary recognition” and “Legal gender recognition procedures exist for minors”. They are included under the category of legal gender recognition and bodily integrity; and the percentage 'weight’ has been altered to accommodate these two new criteria.

Alterations to our criteria make year-on-year comparisons difficult, but certain lessons are clear – countries that are expanding their legislative horizons are moving up in the ranking.

Policymakers, researchers and journalists are able to go ‘behind’ the points 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, www.rainbow-europe.org.

The Rainbow Map and Index presents a picture of what the policy landscape is like currently, while our country-specific recommendations attempt to answer the question “what’s next?” These recommendations are intended to encourage policymakers to address the most pressing legal and policy priorities within the framework of our Rainbow Map and Index. 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.


For the sixth year in a row, Malta continues to occupy the number one spot on the Rainbow Europe Map, with a score of 94%.

Belgium comes second place for the fourth time with a score of 74%.

Luxembourg receives 72 points and occupies the third spot on the ranking for the third year in a row.

The three countries at the other end of the Rainbow Europe scale are Azerbaijan (2%), Turkey (4%), and Armenia (8%), exactly the same as last year.

Denmark is the country with the most dramatic drop in its score, losing 3.80% points in relation to the irregularities for the criterion on depathologisation, with access to trans-specific healthcare still linked with a mental health assessment in the country.

Georgia has also dropped by 3.73% due to the lack of clear procedure for legal gender recognition and the risky situation of LGBTI human rights defenders in the country.

Another important deduction happened, with Ukraine losing 3.5% points due to the expiration of the government’s action plan.

Malta, North Macedonia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina are the three countries with the biggest jump in scores. Malta added sex characteristics under protected grounds in the Refugees Act and published new policy guidelines for LGBTI asylum claims. Malta also received points in relation to ILGA-Europe’s new indicators (“Non-binary recognition” and “Legal gender recognition procedures exist for minors”).

North Macedonia and Bosnia & Herzegovina had a big jump in their scores and rankings, due to the fact that freedom of assembly has been improving in both countries.

Equality and non-discrimination

Equality action plans have expired in Albania, Norway, and Ukraine, while France and Kosovo have shortcomings and implementation problems with their action plans. Finland, Ireland, Sweden, and Germany’s Saarland region’s action plans were the only new ones that received points this year. Governments in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Czechia, and Ukraine are in the process of preparation of their next action plans.

Albania included sex characteristics protection in anti-discrimination legislation. The region of Cantabria in Spain introduced a new anti-discrimination law protecting on the ground of sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics. A court in Poland clarified that law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity at workplace.

Portugal and Northern Ireland (UK) revoked all restrictions on LGBTI people for blood donation, making it possible for everyone to donate blood safely and equally. Ukraine announced a similar change, but it hasn't been enacted yet.

Family

Recognition of family legislation is stagnating across Europe. This year, there was no single legal or policy change affecting LGBTI people.

Hate crime and hate speech

Norway was the only country to extend legal protection from hate crime, amending its Penal Code to add gender identity ground.

Legal gender recognition and bodily integrity

Since 6 January, 2021, legal recognition for non-binary people has been implemented in Iceland, making it the only country in Europe to advance trans rights in the last 12 months.

Trans-specific healthcare became almost impossible to access in Northern Ireland. Activists’ reporting has revealed that trans people are unable to access the medical reports required to go through these processes without paying for private care, thus creating a class barrier to accessing LGR.

Civil society space

North Macedonia and Bosnia & Herzegovina have had no state obstruction of freedom of assembly within the past three years and Pride events were adequately protected by police.

Poland’s civil society space has shrunk more this year, because people are being actively attacked by the police during public events, instead of being protected. Poland also lost points related to freedom of expression, due to the anti-LGBT resolutions that have been passed by local governments.

The other country with a negative trend in this regard is Georgia, which lost points with LGBTI human rights defenders at risk, due to a large number of attacks over the last 12 months.

Asylum

Malta introduced new amendments to the Refugees Act and published new guidelines on asylum claims. This was only development regarding protection of LGBTI asylum rights in the last 12 months.

Finland’s policies regarding LGBTI asylum seekers were criticised by LGBTI civil society for being only project based and not creating any systematic approach or policy. Points were deducted by ILGA-Europe from Finland, based on this report.


Rainbow Europe previous editions:

Among the key findings from this year’s Rainbow Europe are:

Rainbow Map and Index 2020 reveals that once-leading countries in Europe are falling behind in their commitments to equality for LGBTI people. 

ILGA-Europe’s annual benchmarking tool, which ranks 49 countries in Europe on their LGBTI equality laws and policies, reveals not only a standstill but a visible backslide on laws and policies safeguarding equality and human rights of LGBTI people.

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. 

Find the complete 2017 Rainbow Europe Package here - the Annual Review, Rainbow Europe Map and Index.

Find the complete 2016 Rainbow Europe Package here - the Annual Review, Rainbow Europe Map and Index.

Find here the Rainbow Europe Package 2015 - Annual Review, Rainbow Europe Map and information on the new virtual Rainbow Europe.

Find here the Rainbow Europe Package 2014 - Annual Review and Rainbow Europe Map - as well as the index and an in-depth explanatory document.

Find here the Rainbow Europe Package 2013

ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map reflects the national legal human rights situation of LGBTI people in a simple format.

Find information and download the Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTI People in Europe 2011 here.

Updated Rainbow Europe Map, originally launched in July 2009, now contains a Country Index.
 

ILGA-Europe published a map of Europe reflecting the legal situation for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in 2009.