LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Rainbow Europe 2020

Rainbow Europe Map 2020

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

Key findings of the Rainbow Map 2020 include:

  • There has been no positive change in 49% of countries
  • For the second year in a row, countries are moving backwards on the Rainbow Index, as existing protections are disappearing
  • Trans rights are where most of the current movement in terms of LGBTI equality is happening, for better or worse.
  • Other forward movement, although on a smaller scale, is in the inclusion of equality measures protecting intersex people against discrimination
  • Regression is most visible where civil and political rights are eroded: LGBTI human rights defenders increasingly at risk, authorities taking active measures to undermine civil society associations, and attempts to ban public events.


According to Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, Evelyne Paradis: “This is a critical time for LGBTI equality in Europe. With each year passing, more and more countries, including champions of LGBTI equality, continue to fall behind in their commitments to equality for LGBTI people, while more governments take active measures to target LGBTI communities. There are reasons to be extremely worried that this situation will spread as political attention is immersed in the economic fall-out of COVID-19.”

Read more on the media release dated May 14 2020.


Executive Summary

Rainbow Europe – ILGA-Europe’s annual benchmarking tool – is comprised of 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 69 criteria – 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 2020 individual criteria and the percentage ‘weight’ assigned to them remain exactly the same as the 2019 version, meaning that it is easier than ever before to compare a country’s momentum or regression on LGBTI equality laws.

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 right now, while our country-specific recommendations attempt to answer the question “what’s next?” These recommendations for national policymakers 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.




TOP 5, Rainbow Europe 2020

BOTTOM 5, Rainbow Europe 2020

1. Malta (89%)
2. Belgium (73%)
3. Luxembourg (73%)
4. Denmark (68 %)
5. Norway (68%)
45. Monaco (11%)
46. Russia (10%)
47. Armenia (8%)
48. Turkey (4 %)
49. Azerbaijan (2%)

For the fifth year in a row, Malta continues to occupy the number one spot on the Rainbow Europe Map, with a score of 89%. 

Belgium comes second place for the third time with a score of 73%.

Luxembourg receives the same score as Belgium and occupies the third spot on the ranking for the second year in a row. 

The three countries at the other end of the Rainbow Europe scale are Azerbaijan (2%), Turkey (4%), and Armenia (8%). Turkey’s score has been decreasing since 2015, due to restrictions on freedom of assembly and association. Azerbaijan has also lost points over the past two years due to irregularities on legal gender recognition. 

Hungary is the country with the most dramatic drop in its score, losing 8.46% points in relation to the suspended procedures for legal gender recognition and the lack of proper state protection at public events. Poland has also dropped by 1.9% and is now the lowest EU country on the map. 

Another important deduction happened, with France losing 6.80% points due to the expiration of the government’s action plan. 

Montenegro, North Macedonia, and the Netherlands were the three countries with the biggest jump in scores. Montenegro announced a comprehensive action plan for the next four years and prohibited discrimination based on sex characteristics. North Macedonia amended its equality and criminal codes, adding sexual orientation and gender identity as protected grounds. In the Netherlands, the Equal Treatment Act was amended with the inclusion of gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics grounds. 

Equality action plans have expired in Belgium, Finland, and France, while Croatia, Ireland, and Kosovo have shortcomings and implementation problems with their action plans. Serbia and Andorra included sexual orientation and gender identity protection in healthcare legislation. Belgium and the Netherlands were the only countries that recognised ‘sex characteristics’ in their equality laws.

Recognition of family legislation is stagnating across Europe. This year, only Northern Ireland (UK) introduced marriage equality and Monaco recognised the right to cohabitation for same-sex couples (coming into effect on 27 June 2020). Serbia imposed a ban on medically assisted insemination services for people with a history of same-sex relationships.

Court judgements in several countries had groundbreaking effects on the lives of LGBTI people, including Spain’s Constitutional Court’s ruling against the age limit for gender marker change for trans people; Switzerland’s Federal Court decision saying that the Constitution protects ‘gender identity’ under ‘sex/gender’; and Kosovo’s Basic Court decision approving the legal gender recognition of a trans man.

North Macedonia was this year’s only country extending protection from hate crime, amending its Criminal Code to add sexual orientation and gender identity grounds. Switzerland’s referendum approved the inclusion of ‘sexual orientation’ grounds in the Criminal Code. 

The right to self-determination for trans people has been recognised only in Iceland with its new Gender Autonomy Act. Legal gender recognition procedures have become more accessible through trans activists’ efforts in Armenia, Cyprus, Kosovo, and Montenegro. The implementation of existing procedures has worsened in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Serbia, Turkey, and Northern Ireland (UK).


Watch back our online discussion which took place on Facebook on May 14. Brought together key European policy makers and civil society actors, the event focused on the state of play for LGBTI people in Europe, especially in the current global context.

Our participants:

  • Evelyne Paradis, Executive (Director, ILGA-Europe) as a moderator
  • Helena Dalli is the European Commissioner for Equality. She was Malta’s Minister responsible for equality during 2013-2019 advancing amongst others a series of laws and policies with direct beneficial impact to the LGBTIQ community.
  • Michael O’Flaherty is Director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). Previously, Michael O'Flaherty was Established Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He has served as Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Member of the UN Human Rights Committee and head of a number of UN Human Rights Field Operations.
  • Dennis van der Veur is Programme Manager, Communicating Rights, Communications and Events Unit at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). His areas of expertise include equality, LGBT, hate crime, civil society and networking. Before joining the FRA he was adviser to the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, and Monitoring Officer at the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
  • Masen Davis is the interim executive director of Transgender Europe, a member-based NGO with 140 member organisations in 44 countries throughout Europe and Central Asia. He has been advocating for trans rights since 1998 and led a range of organisations, including Transgender Law Center and Freedom for All Americans. Masen was one of the founding co-chairs of the International Trans Fund and serves on the board of GATE. 
  • Tena Šimonović Einwalter is Chair of the Executive Board of the European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet) and Member of the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). At the national level, one of the drafters of the Croatian Anti-Discrimination Act in 2008, working in the central equality body for the past 12 years, elected by the Parliament as Deputy Ombudswoman in 2013.