Update: This story has been updated with statistics from ILGA-Europe's November 2017 report.
The LGBTI human rights organization, ILGA-Europe, held their annual conference this year in Warsaw, Poland from Nov. 1 through Nov. 4.
With “Change: Communities Mobilizing, Movements Rising” being the theme of this year’s conference, a presence of over four hundred European delegates, along with one Canadian and thirty-five American delegates, assembled to share unique stories detailing both successes and challenges in European LGBT matters, and to strategize for progress.
The selected venue location of Warsaw was symbolic to the conference theme given the history of Warsaw as a seat of resistance during WWII where a large majority of its citizens rose against Nazi German occupation during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.
By 1945, close to 90 percent of the city was destroyed in retaliation by Nazi German forces. The conference venue took place in the heart of what used to be the Warsaw Ghetto.
A. Chaber, Executive Director of the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH) who served as host of the conference stated, “This historical site is not only proof of what happens when prejudice and hate take over, but also evidence of the unprecedented role fear and indifference plays in oppression. Our history teaches us that to achieve real change we need to stand together. We need to mobilize.”
With mobilization being a current “buzz word” for LGBT Europeans as events are sweeping across Europe that have both positive and negative impacts for people, organizations like ILGA-Europe serve as a major asset to the LGBTI European community. Its role helps to establish a bridge for people from various countries throughout Europe and other parts of the world who might not have otherwise shared ties or similarities with outside of oppression.
A Rainbow Map published each year by ILGA-Europe serves as an outline for the human rights situation of LGBTI people throughout Europe. The map scores nations according to various measures related to Equality and Non-Discrimination, Family, Hate Crimes and Hate Speech, Legal Gender Recognition and Bodily Integrity, Civil Society Space and Asylum.
As of November 2017, the nation of Malta led the rest of Europe with a score of 91 percent, followed by Norway with a score of 78 percent and the United Kingdom with a score of 76 percent. With regard to Marriage Equality, it has been legal in Norway since 2009. In the United Kingdom, Marriage Equality is legal with the exception of Northern Ireland where it is not recognized and they have a registered civil partnership law in place. Activists in Northern Ireland have launched a Love Equality Campaign consisting of six different civic society and LGBT charities to advocate for Marriage Equality to be legally recognized. As of July 12, 2017 the Maltese parliament passed a bill amending existing legislation to provide for marriage equality with the law taking effect on September 1, 2017. Another important milestone for LGBTI equality in Malta is the amendment to the 2015 Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act that mandates that transgender inmates will be housed according to their gender identity.
With regard to the status of LGBTI equality in Eastern European nations, they received scores ranging from 13 percent (Belarus) to 33 percent (Estonia). The scores reflect the varying degrees in the region related to discrimination in laws directed at LGBTI families, marriage equality or registered partnership laws, hate crimes or hate speech, legal gender recognition and bodily integrity measures.
The worst scored countries for equality on the Rainbow Map were Armenia with a 7 percent score followed by Russia with a 6 percent score and Azerbaijan scoring 5 percent indicating severe violations of human rights and discrimination of LGBTI communities.
Conversion Therapy, a pseudoscience false therapy that has been debunked by the American Psychological Association, claims to “cure” LGBTI people and change their sexual orientation to heterosexual and/or change their gender identity.
In 2016 after approving the Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression, the Parliament of Malta banned Conversion Therapy. In the U.K. the National Health Service as well as all major counseling and psychotherapy bodies have condemned Conversion Therapy and signed a Memorandum of Understanding in October 2017.
To see the online version of the ILGA-Europe Rainbow Package, go to: rainbow-europe.org.