Historic leap in equality as Malta rises to third place in ILGA ranking

Malta Gay Rights Movement coordinator, Gabi Calleja: “That Malta is now at the forefront of the struggle for LGBTIQ equality is something that encourages us to continue in our advocacy efforts”

Malta has shot up to a historic third ranking in the International Lesbian-Gay Association’s ‘Rainbow Europe’ league, for having advanced in LGBTI rights – namely with the introduction of civil unions and gender identity laws that made worldwide headlines.

“Steadfast, committed leadership and visible equality trailblazers are necessary ingredients for advancing LGBTI equality,” ILGA-Europe said upon publishing its 2015 Rainbow Map, annual review and the brand new Rainbow Europe web module.

Launched in Montenegro, at the 2015 European IDAHOT forum celebrating International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (17 May), the 2015 Rainbow Europe package highlights the complexity of the current situation for LGBTI people in Europe.

“We witnessed several countries making historic strides, while others have stalled in terms of their equality development,” Paulo Côrte-Real, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said. “The vital ingredient, present in so many of the countries who have climbed in our Rainbow Map rankings, was unshakable leadership from political figures and activist leaders, often in challenging contexts.”

Malta’s rise to 3rd in the ILGA rating was undoubtedly the most eye-catching story of the 2015 Rainbow Map.

This is an improvement of eight places (11th in 2014) with an overall score of 77% (57% in 2014).

Malta Gay Rights Movement coordinator, Gabi Calleja stated: “We welcome the important strides forward that Malta has made over the past months where LGBTIQ rights are concerned. That Malta is now at the forefront of the struggle for LGBTIQ equality is something that encourages us to continue in our advocacy efforts and in providing support to LGBTIQ persons and their families.”

At the other end of the spectrum, the difficulties faced by LGBTI activists in Azerbaijan are clear; it lies at the bottom of the 2015 Map with only 5%. Our colour-coded representation of the current legal and policy situation for LGBTI people in Europe ranks 49 countries according to our ultimate benchmark of 100% equality. The fact that no European country has yet reached this magic number, and that the European average is lingering at just 42%, tells European decision makers that there is much work to be done in the coming months.

Top 3, Rainbow Map 2015 Bottom 3, Rainbow Map 2015
1. United Kingdom 86% 47. Armenia 9%
2. Belgium 83% 48. Russia 8%
3. Malta 79% 49. Azerbaijan 5%

The recognition of the human rights of trans and intersex people came to the fore in a major way in 2014. Great steps forward came in the shape of Denmark’s progressive legal gender recognition law and through impressive standard setting, when Malta gave gender identity constitutional protection from discrimination

The Spanish region of Andalucía adopted similar provisions to the Danish model and The Netherlands removed previous legal gender recognition requirements for a court order, surgery, and permanent sterilisation.

The sheer visibility of LGBTI advocates in public life was very encouraging. From the openly gay mayoral candidates elected in Poland and Turkey to Latvia’s foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs coming out on Twitter and Conchita Wurst’s success at Eurovision 2014 – all have become symbols of the growing prominence of LGBTI people and their allies across Europe.

Family and marriage equality rights advanced at pace with future marriage equality approved in Finland, enacted in England, Wales and Scotland, and to be decided in an Irish referendum in a few days’ time. Estonia became the first former USSR country to officially recognise same sex unions by passing an historic cohabitation act.  Progress was not universal though; vocal campaigns for restrictive marriage definitions emerged in Slovakia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Opposition to LGBTI rights also consolidated in 2014 in the form of anti-equality rhetoric – from anti-‘gender theory’ campaigns or in anti-‘Western messaging’ spread by Eurasian Union leaders which spread far beyond those countries’ borders.

“The advances made in 2014, and in 2015 so far, do not just belong to ILGA-Europe. Our Map reflects them and we have supported them. But ultimately, they belong to the activists, to our member organisations and the political leaders who are willing to raise their head above the parapet and lead social change,” ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis said.

“As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Yogyakarta Principles and the 20th anniversary of ILGA-Europe in 2016, we have many hurdles left to overcome,” said Joyce Hamilton, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board. “Homophobic and transphobic violence, hate speech and discrimination continue to be an everyday occurrence for some of our LGBTI neighbours.  Let’s hope that 2015 will bring more examples similar to Malta and Estonia. Now more than ever, Europe needs political leaders to work with and for LGBTI people in Europe.”

Source: MaltaToday