ILGA has released its 2023 Rainbow Europe Map and Rainbow Index. The map highlights how safe European countries truly are for LGBTQ+ people.

In May 2023, ILGA published the Rainbow Europe Map 2023 and Rainbow Index 2023. The annual map is designed to rank the safety of each 49 European nations in terms of LGBTQ+ rights. ILGA takes into account the legal and policy situation of each country. Here is a list with the complete 2023 ranking of all countries.

ILGA used seven categories to examine the LGBTQ+ laws and policies of each nation. These are: equality and non-discrimination, family, hate crime and hate speech, legal gender recognition, intersex bodily integrity, civil society space, and asylum. You can find more information about the list of criteria on the Rainbow Europe website.

Key findings

  • For the 8th time in a row, Malta is on the number one spot on the Rainbow Europe Map. Their score reached 89%.
  • Belgium comes in second, and Denmark in third position, both countries’ scores being 76%.
  • Spain’s ranking jumped to 4th place due to the country’s introduction of the trans self-identification law, making it easier for trans people to legally change their gender identity.
  • Sadly, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Armenia remain the least safe countries for LGBTQ+ people. This score has been the same for the past three years. ILGA’s report highlights that hate speech and anti-LGBTQ+ violence remain serious issues in Azerbaijan.
  • Iceland was also among the few countries who jumped high up in their score. The European country adopted an equality action plan, including gender and sex characteristics in their equality law.
  • Finland made it to the top ten in the Rainbow Europe Map because of their trans self-determination law, allowing trans people to obtain a legal gender recognition based on self-determination.
  • Switzerland now passed same-sex marriage, switching its position with Slovenia.
  • Croatia also advanced due to their inclusion of same-sex couples in legal adoptions.
  • Moldova’s ranking increased, moving up 14 places. This is due to their legislation including gender identity and sexuality within employment laws, education, healthcare services, hate crime and hate speech.

UK’s ranking in the Rainbow Europe Map

What was most notable was the UK’s drop in the rankings. Back in 2015, the UK kept a considerably high ranking in the Rainbow Europe map. This was the case for several years consecutively. However, this year’s map saw the UK drop down to 17th place, three positions lower than last year.

This drop is due to recent anti-trans discourses and policies within the government. Firstly, there is a clear absence of an LGBTQ+ Action Plan. Intersex people continue to be discriminated against, with the UK Government offering no legal protection. Moreover, although promised for years, conversion therapy practices are still not banned in the country.

More recently, the UK Government blocked Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill that would have allowed trans people to self-identify in order to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate. Even more dangerously, the Equalities Minister, Kemi Badenoch, is trying to change the legal definition of ‘sex’ to mean ‘biological sex’ in the Equality Act. If this change goes through, trans people will effectively be banned from all single-sex spaces and services.

We urge the government in the UK as well as other low-ranking European countries on the Rainbow Europe Map to do better, to offer protection and basic human rights to the LGBTQ+ community, in particular to transgender, non-binary and intersex people. We need to keep fighting for trans rights and LGBTQ+ rights!

How can the UK improve?

ILGA’s Rainbow Europe Map showed that a lot of work is necessary for many European countries, including the UK to strengthen their LGBTQ+ rights and make their country safer for queer and trans people.

However, all hope is not lost. The UK’s ranking would significantly increase if its government effectively banned conversion therapy for ALL, if they allowed Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform bill to pass and if they do not change the legal definition of ‘sex’ in the Equality Act. These three steps would make the UK a safer and better country for LGBTQ+ people to live in.

The Rainbow Europe Map demonstrates where more improvement is necessary but it also showcases many top ranking countries where being LGBTQ+ is much more celebrated. This is the world we all aspire and deserve to live in.