Prague, Czech Republic – A new ranking has confirmed LGBT rights are backsliding in Central Europe, and shattered the Czech Republic’s status as a liberal vanguard in the region.
The Rainbow Europe Index examines the legal standards of 49 countries in Europe or its close neighbourhood, including the 28 EU member states, and ranks them on a scale of 0% (complete discrimination) to 100% (full equality) – taking into account how the laws and policies of a country impact the lives of LGBT people in different areas (family, legal gender recognition, hate speech, freedom of expression, asylum rights, etc.).
According to the Rainbow Europe Index 2019, the most equal and tolerant country toward the LGBT community is, by far, Malta (score of 90%), followed by Belgium (73%), Luxembourg (70%), Finland (69%) and Denmark (68%).
LGBT rights backsliding in Central Europe
Positioned 19th in the 2019 index, Hungary ranks first among Visegrad Group countries and second in the wider CEE region (after Croatia), with an overall score of 41% – an important drop compared to five years ago, when it came out 14th with a score of 54%. Although the Hungarian population is traditionally more progressive than neighbouring countries, legal and social protection of LGBT people have deteriorated in recent years, and has faced constant attacks from Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party and its pledge to uphold traditional Christian family values.
With a score of nearly 30%, Slovakia ranks 26th in this year’s Rainbow Europe ranking, a short drop compared to the 2014 index (24th place, 31%). Widely viewed as more conservative than its Czech neighbour, Slovakia’s relatively strong ranking might come as a surprise in a country where the heterosexual nature of marriage is enshrined in the constitution. An illustration of Slovakia’s divided stance on the issue of LGBT rights, the government ditched the so-called Istanbul convention on women’s rights and gender equality in April, a few days after electing its first female and openly pro-LGBT president.
Although often described as the most progressive country in terms of LGBT rights in the former Eastern bloc, the Czech Republic is only ranked 31st in this year’s Rainbow map (and 21st out of the 28 EU member states), with a score of 26%. These results highlight the sharp deterioration of LGBT rights and tolerance in the Czech Republic, ranked 20th overall in the 2014 ranking with a 35% score. “The situation in the Czech Republic is at a standstill”, explained Czech LGBT rights activist Adéla Horáková. Discussions on a bill that could make the Czech Republic the first post-communist country to legalize same-sex marriage have stalled with the final vote in Parliament postponed for the time being.
Ranked 30th with a 28% score five years ago, Poland pursued its fall in the ranking and is now placed 38th (second lowest among EU member states after Latvia) with a score of less than 18%. While tolerance towards LGBT people reaches one of its lowest levels in Poland, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has recently turned the issue into an electoral battleground and described LGBT rights as a foreign import that threatens Polish identity. Earlier this month, controversy and public outcry arose after a Polish Amnesty International activist was arrested for painting with the rainbow flag the halo of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus on posters and leaflets.