Moldova leaps in LGBT+ rights ranking, but Montenegro continues to lead emerging Europe

In a very hostile global climate, different actors are coming together and weighing in more actively for LGBT+ rights across Europe.

Moldova’s inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in legislation covering employment, education, provision of goods and services, health, hate crime and hate speech has seen it jump 14 places in the latest edition of the Rainbow Map and Index, published each May by Europe’s leading LGBT+ organisation, ILGA-Europe. 

The Rainbow Map and Index ranks 49 European countries on their respective legal and policy practices for LGBT+ people, from 0-100 per cent. 

Moldova’s score, of 39 per cent, is now more than double that of neighbouring Romania, one of the emerging Europe region’s worst performers on just 18 per cent.

Montenegro, with a score of 61 per cent is once again the only country in the emerging Europe region to make the Index’s top ten, with Slovenia (46 per cent) the only country in the region to offer full marriage equality.

The overwhelming majority of the region’s countries score well below more liberal states in Western Europe. 

In order to create the ranking, ILGA-Europe examines the laws and policies in 49 countries using 74 criteria, divided between seven thematic categories: equality and non-discrimination; family; hate crime and hate speech; legal gender recognition; intersex bodily integrity; civil society space; and asylum. 

Malta leads the Index, with a score of 89 per cent. Azerbaijan sits firmly at the foot of the Index on just two per cent. Armenia fares little better, on nine per cent, although it did increase its score by one index point this year after revoking a ban on blood donations from gay men. 

Croatia also saw its score increase after a court in Zagreb issued a landmark ruling establishing that same-sex couples have the right to adopt children. 

According to ILGA-Europe’s Executive Director Evelyne Paradis, “As powerfully evidenced in this year’s Rainbow Map, the rise of anti-LGBT+ rhetoric from anti-democratic forces, particularly instrumentalising false anti-trans narratives, is being fought back by politicians in Europe who have the courage to make a stand for the fundamental human rights and equality of every citizen.  

“The map highlights the clear fact that progress for LGBTI people is still possible, and more important than ever, with the need for more leaders to push back on attacks on democracy for all by pushing forward. We commend those politicians who have taken the stance that needs to be taken for the good of everyone in our society, and we encourage more to step up to the plate as across Europe democracy and human rights are under threat from the far-right.” 

A positive difference

Moldova’s impressive climb up the ranking is evidence of the quick progress that can be made, but Katrin Hugendubel, advocacy director at ILGA-Europe warns of pushback.  

“Governments, but also other political actors and institutions can and have been making a positive difference this year,” she says.  

“A lot of progress relies on the courts, for instance, at local, national and European level. Poland remains the country in the EU with the lowest ranking at 43rd place, but the country gained points in the index this year because of the courts ensuring that no surgical interventions are needed for legal gender recognition and the equality body extending its work to include intersex people.  

“In a very hostile global climate, we are seeing different actors coming together, and weighing in more actively for LGBTI rights, which is crucial to counter the pushback.” 

Pushback in Serbia

That pushback can also be seen in the challenge to freedom of assembly amid the rise of anti-democratic forces. Markedly, Serbia, which hosted a seriously compromised EuroPride march after last-minute attempts by the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and then-Minister of the Interior Aleksandar Vulin to ban the event, went down three places. 

This is despite the country’s prime minister, Ana Brnabić, being the only openly gay national leader in the emerging Europe region. 

Speaking at EuroPride last year, Brnabić said: “I’m doing my best, I increase the visibility. I have given myself no other right than all of you have. And that is not a lot of rights, I admit.” 

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