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Despite low tolerance, Central Europe increasingly at ease with homosexuality

Krakow, Poland – On Wednesday, the OECD released its Society at a Glance 2019 report, which examines a series of social indicators throughout 36 OECD countries in Europe and beyond, with a special focus, this year, on homosexuality and LGBT rights.

The organization, which points out long-standing discrimination for LGBT people in several areas, including health access and employment opportunities, notes that homophobia remains widespread among developed countries: on average, nearly one third of LGBT respondents felt personally discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to the OECD, LGBT acceptance level stands on average at 5.1 points, on a scale ranging from 0 (“homosexuality is never justifiable”) to 10 (“homosexuality is always justifiable”). These results, based on surveys conducted since 2001, are compared with similar data from 1981 to 2000.

In almost every country in Europe, tolerance towards homosexuality and LGBT people has increased over that time period, except for Greece, Italy and the Czech Republic.

With an acceptance level of 8.3, Iceland is crowned as the most tolerant country towards homosexuality, followed by Sweden (8.1), the Netherlands (7.6), Norway (7.4) and Denmark (7.3). At the opposite end of the scale, the least tolerant countries according to the OECD findings are Turkey (1.6), Lithuania (2), Latvia (2.4), South Korea and Estonia (both 2.8).

Apart from Slovakia, whose level of tolerance towards homosexuality is similar to the OECD average (5.1, +0.9 point compared to previous data), all other Central European countries remain below average. However, Slovakia reports the lowest “rate of comfort” in dealing with transgender people, both in a personal and professional context, according to the report.

Although hailed as the most progressive country in the former eastern bloc, and reportedly on the verge of being the first post-communist country to legalize same-sex marriage, the Czech Republic reports a lower rate than its Slovak neighbour, with an acceptance level of 5 (-0.4 point compared to the last study, one of the only countries where tolerance dropped since the 1980’s).

Although reporting a strong increase over the past decades, both Hungary (3.7) and Poland (3.2) – where the LGBT issue has become one of the key issues in public debate in recent months – remain among the least tolerant European countries towards LGBT people and homosexuality.

Top 10 most tolerant OECD countries towards homosexuality:

  1. Iceland
  2. Sweden
  3. Netherlands
  4. Norway
  5. Denmark
  6. Switzerland
  7. Spain
  8. Australia
  9. Luxembourg
  10. Finland

Top 10 least tolerant OECD countries towards homosexuality:

  1. Turkey
  2. Lithuania
  3. Latvia
  4. South Korea
  5. Estonia
  6. Poland
  7. Italy
  8. Hungary
  9. Greece
  10. Portugal