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UK slides from top LGBTQIA+ European country to 17th in just eight years

UK slides from top LGBTQIA+ European country to 17th in just eight years

Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham
TL;DR: The UK's LGBTQIA+ record has dramatically dropped in the ILGA Europe's annual ranking - again. Once at the top, we're now 17th. But these rankings also show us that despite a year of backlash overall, LGBTQIA+ rights are increasing across Europe and Central Asia.

Despite intense anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric and backlash in several countries, ILGA Europe's annual Rainbow Map shows our rights are, overall, increasing in the region.

But not in the UK. This country, which once topped the ranking system scoring 86% in 2015, has dramatically dropped to 17th, scoring 53% this year.

The news comes in a week when a UN special envoy on LGBTQIA+ rights released a damning report on the government and UK media's prejudiced impact on our lives.

UK heavily criticised in multiple global reports: ILGA Europe Rainbow Map

The ILGA Europe report that accompanies the map release explains the UK’s ranking has caused “serious damage”  by:

  • Anti-trans coverage and “hostile reporting” from newspapers,
  • Trans sports bans,
  • Former prime minister Boris Johnson excluding trans people from the promised outlawing of “conversion therapy”
  • The 348% rise in LGBTQIA+ hate crimes in the last six years,
  • The anti-trans group, LGB Alliance, achieving charity status - PinkNews

UN Special Convoy's damning take on UK government and media

Meanwhile, the UN's independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, released a report from his recent visit to the UK. He met a number of LGBTQIA+ groups, and anti-trans ones, along with ministers.

His report to the UN was unequivocally bad for the UK's global reputation.

In it he criticised moves by the EHRC to help the government discriminate against trans people, as well as the media's anti-trans crusade and even the government's "perplexing u-turns" over conversion therapy:

“I am deeply concerned about the increased bias-motivated incidents of harassment, threats, and violence against LGBT people including a rampant surge in hate crimes in the UK... All of this is attributed – by a wide range of stakeholders – to the toxic nature of the public debate surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity.”
– Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN

All of this has seen Stonewall and 30 other groups write to the international body of human rights again to call for the EHRC’s status to be reconsidered.

Across Europe and Central Asia, trans rights increase

It's not all bad news, though. Transgender Europe, which ranks countries specifically on trans rights, has found continued improvement in 2022 across Europe and Central Asia.

Countries that developed trans rights included Spain, Moldova, Andorra, Finland and Iceland. Iceland overtook Malta to be listed at the top of the ranking.

Spain's far-reaching law was one of the most significant changes in the last year. The new law covered employment, protections for trans migrants, and discrimination based on gender expression. Non-binary people were, however, left out of the legal gender recognition change.

Following Finland, the law in Spain adopted legal gender recognition based on self-determination - Forbes

Analysis: Let’s look to Europe for hope about our future

Having written and produced content about the LGBTQIA+ world for nearly a decade now, I'm lucky enough to have spoken to queers all over the world.

My journalist peers in Europe are watching the UK with disgust and disgrace. Not just over Brexit, but also for our country's lurch to the right on LGBTQIA+ rights.

But these rankings are a source of hope. You can see how even in countries where in recent years being LGBTQIA+ has been tough, things are improving for queers.

We might be in a quagmire, but one thing I know for sure is our European pals have no intention of leaving us behind.

They are with us as we fight back against a media and government that is prepared to throw us under a bus for votes and clicks.

Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay queer disabled - A note from me:

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