Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Is Italy the worst place in Western Europe to be gay?

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), and a European gay rights group has taken the opportunity to publish an updated map of the human rights situation for gays, lesbians and transgendered people in Europe. Italy has clocked in at the bottom of the league, scoring worst than every EU country except Cyprus and Latvia. Meanwhile the UK scored highest, moving up from sixth place the previous year.

This year's map (pictured right) from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) gives countries a dark green for being progressive on gay rights, lighter green for being somewhat progressive and grey for being poor on gay rights. Countries in the 'red zone' are accused of "gross violations of human rights and discrimination". The factors used to determine the rankings included whether the country has anti-discrimination legislation, gay marriage, parenting rights, hate crime laws and whether the country has allowed pride demonstrations to take place.

In general the map follows a predictable East-West divide, but there are notable exceptions. The top country was the UK, followed by Sweden and Spain. Surprisingly the BENELUX countries, which have been the vanguard in the area of gay rights, came in this year with only average scores for Western Europe. This is probably due to the fact that countries like Spain and Portugal have made such rapid advances over the past few years while few changes have been made in Belgium and Holland. Switzerland, France and Ireland were among the lowest scorers in Western Europe. Hungary had the highest score in Eastern Europe - despite the fact that they just passed a new constitution which bans gay marriage. They do however still have civil unions.

But Italy had the lowest score in Western Europe, with a big fat zero. Countries with more gay rights than Italy included Poland, Serbia and Albania. While Italy did get points for having anti-discrimination protection in employment, it lost points for having no form of legal recognition for same-sex couples, no hate crime protection and banning adoption by gays and lesbians.

The legal situation appears to mirror a larger cultural hostility toward gays and lesbians that still lingers in Italy. After all, this is a country where the prime minister has defended himself in a scandal in which is is accused of paying an underage prostitute by declaring, "At least I'm not gay." Following Ireland's adoption of civil unions last year, Italy has been left as the only country in Western Europe to have no form of gay marriage.

But Italy was not the worst performer in the EU. Cyprus was deep in the 'red zone' with a score of -2. Latvia scored equally with Italy with a score of 0. Interestingly Lithuania, which has been in the press recently as its parliament considers a law that would impose fines for "public promotion of homosexual relations.," scored higher than Italy with a 1.

Also of note - Azerbaijan, which won the Eurovision Song Contest this weekend, was deep in the 'red zone' with a score of -2. This was partly because it has never had a pride demonstration. ILGA accuses the country of "gross violations of human rights and discrimination." Given Eurovision's large gay following, next year's song contest may see difficulties of the sort seen at the 2009 ESC in Moscow when Russia banned a gay rights march from taking place in the city.


T_Huddleston said...

I think you made a typo about the Czech Republic since Hungary is also in Eastern Europe. About Benelux, I would say that the Benelux are NOW only average, since this Index also notes that Western countries like Spain and Portugal have followed with their own recent progress.

Dave Keating said...

Oh you're right! I missed Hungary there, I'll change it.

Séan-Pól said...

it depends where you are- the South is backward and conservative, in the North I don't think its anymore an issue than anywhere else in Western Europe.. although of course there are few legal protections but again because laws are made in Rome and thats where the Vatican is- federalism would help .. maybe

Ainhoa said...

I'm proud of Spain! :-) not sure how long that score will last once the right party goes back to ruling us next year..

Javier said...

I do not understand why UK is on the first place. The marriage was not recognized there. In my opinion the most profound advances
made in Spain, and in response to question: yes, there's no worse place to be gay than Italy in Western Europe. For the legal situation and, as you say, cultural prejudices and the immense influence of the Catholic Church in public life.

Greg Czarnecki said...

Good article...just a note. This map was published by ILGA-Europe, which is a different organization technically than ILGA, which is the the whole world .