Which European countries are the best and the worst, for LGBT people?

Rainbow flag waving in the sunlight

"I've never been interested in being invisible and erased." — Laverne Cox, a transgender rights activist and actress.

With LGBT news stories dominating the headlines in the past few weeks, namely the horrific new law in Brunei and the debate over LGBT lessons in schools, it got me thinking about how safe LGBT people would be in various countries across Europe.

I am a lesbian, and have been with my girlfriend for almost four years now. We both want to travel the world over our life times and a major factor in the places we will visit is how we will be treated, and how comfortable we will be just being us.

So, here is a little break down of European countries based on their laws.

Netherlands

The Netherlands deserves the first mention, as it was the first country in the world to legalise same sex marriage — way back in 2001. This was a massive way to jump into the 21st century, giving same sex couples the equal rights of heterosexual couples. Bravo Netherlands, bravo.

The country also allows same-sex couples to adopt and bans all discrimination against LGBT people as well as allowing LGBT people to serve in the armed forces.

The Netherlands also does not require surgery or sterilisation to identify as the gender you are.

Belgium

Canal in Belgium, with the countries flag waving.

Belgium is up there with the Netherlands, as same sex marriage has been legal since 2003, and adoption by a same-sex couple has been legal since 2006.

Belgium is often hailed as one of the most progressive for LGBT rights in the world, having legalised same sex sexual activity in 1795, including having the same age of consent of heterosexual couples. The country also allows all people who identify as LGBT to serve in the military.

Spain

Firstly, the Pride celebrations in the capital are regularly referred to as one of the best in the world, so…. that’s something to celebrate!

The party aside, Spain has legalised same sex marriage and adoption since 2005 and allowed all documentation to be assigned to a person’s recognised gender since 2007.

Another great thing happening in certain parts of Spain (Andalusia, Madrid, Murcia and Valencia), it is illegal to attempt to “treat” sexual orientation as a medical condition.

Heart shape made by lights in the colour of the rainbow.

Sweden

Sweden joins the ranks of the aforementioned countries, in that same sex marriage has been legal for several years now, since 2009.

Same sex couples have been able to adopt in the country since back in 2003 and all discrimination against same sex couples is illegal.

The United Kingdom

United Kingdom Flag in the wind.

The United Kingdom may seem like it is up to scratch on LGBT rights, however this isn’t entirely true.

Same sex sexual relationships have been legal across the whole of the UK since 1982, and civil partnerships since 2005.

Same sex marriage has been legal in England, Scotland and Wales since 2014, however it is still not possible to have the same equal marriage rights as heterosexual couples in Northern Ireland.

Another point to make, is that while all discrimination against LGBT people is illegal in the UK, it can be said that the UK Public Order Act of 1986 is unfairly discriminatory against LGBT people. As stated under section 29JA, this law includes “Protection of freedom of expression (sexual orientation)”, which gives unfair advantage to anti-LGBT offenders.

THE BAD….

Azerbaijan

Same sex sexual activity has been legal in Azerbaijan since 2000… and that is about as good as it gets.

Same sex marriage is outlawed, adoption by same sex couples or individuals is not allowed, LGBT people cannot serve in the military and there are no laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination or to tackle issues regarding gender identity or expression.

Vatican City

I could have called this one, but like Azerbaijan, same sex marriage, adoption, serving in the military are all outlawed, as well as there being no law against discrimination. Same sex relationships were legalised in 1980, as part of Italy.

Russia

Russia is similar again, in that same sex marriage is not allowed, nor is adoption or serving in the military if you are a member of the LGBT community. There are also no laws to protect again discrimination either.

However, in 2018 a law was passed to allow people to no longer require sterilisation or surgery to identify as the gender they identify with. It has also been legal for gay men to embark in same sex sexual relationships since 1993 (like most countries — female same sex relationships have always been legal).

Russia has one major flaw though, and that is disregarding the aforementioned outlaws. In Chechnya, an area of Russia with a population of around 1.5million, homosexuals are abducted and sent to concentration camps based on their perceived sexual orientation. A report showed that between February 2017 and April 2017 alone, over 100 men had allegedly been detained and tortured and at least three had died.

A QUICK RUN DOWN OF THE REST…

I have listed some other European countries, with a score out of 7 — this score reflects if it is legal to partake in a same sex relationship, be recognised if you are in a same sex union (but not married), have same sex marriage, adopt, serve in the military, if LGBT people are protected by anti discrimination laws and if it is possible to officially identify as the gender in which you feel.

Andorra: 4/6 *Andorra has no military

Armenia: 1/7

Belarus: 2/7

Austria: 7/7

Bulgaria: 4/7

Croatia: 5/7

Cyprus: 3/7

Czech Republich: 5/7

Denmark: 7/7

Estonia: 6/7

Finland: 7/7

France: 7/7

Germany: 7/7

Greece: 5/7

Hungary: 5/7

Iceland: 7/7

Ireland: 7/7

Italy: 6/7

Latvia: 4/7

Lithuania: 4/7

Luxembourg: 7/7

Malta: 7/7

Norway: 7/7

Poland: 4/7

Portugal: 7/7

Romania: 4/7

Serbia: 4/7

Slovakia: 4/7

Slovenia: 5/7

Sweden: 7/7

Switzerland: 5/7

Turkey: 1/7

Ukraine: 4/7

Wherever you live in Europe, or the world, please remember that YOU should be able to be true to yourself. Live proudly but safely, and over time I hope that this list will be full of top scores across the board!

Until then, the LGBT community will continue to fight for the human rights of all in our community.

“All of us who are openly gay are living and writing the history of our movement. We are no more — and no less — heroic than the suffragists and abolitionists of the 19th century; and the labour organisers, Freedom Riders, Stonewall demonstrators, and environmentalists of the 20th century. We are ordinary people, living our lives, and trying as civil-rights activist Dorothy Cotton said, to ‘fix what ain’t right’ in our society.” — Senator Tammy Baldwin

A part time writer, studying for my BA (Hons) Degree Creative Writing. My interests include mental health, politics, LGBT rights, fiction, poetry and many more!

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