ILGA, the International Association of Lesbians and Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals, has published this year’s Rainbow Europe, the most important European ranking examining the level of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) equality in Europe.

The conclusions are not optimistic:

  • There have been no changes for the better in 49 percent of countries;
  • for the second year in a row many countries are dropping down the ranking.

“This is a critical moment for LGBTI equality in Europe. Every year, more and more countries, including the greatest proponents of the fight for LGBTI rights, are neglecting their commitments to these people’s equality. At the same time, more and more governments are openly attacking the LGBTI community,” said ILGA Europe’s head Evelyne Paradis.

Publikujemy teksty po angielsku o sytuacji w Polsce, aby pełna informacja o sytuacji w naszym kraju docierała do czytelników i czytelniczek za granicą. Udostępnij znajomym mieszkającym poza Polską.

Marta K. Nowak w tekście "Polska homofobem Europy. W całej Unii żadne państwo nie traktuje obywateli LGBTI gorzej" przedstawia wyniki najnowszego rankingu "Rainbow Europe". Polska spadła w nim na ostatnią pozycję pod względem praw osób LGBTI w całej Unii Europejskiej.

This sad news also applies to Poland, which has always looked bad in this respect, and is now the country which is officially worst at protecting its non-heteronormative citizens.

“This is a reflection of a terrifying reality,” commented Slava Melnyk, director of the Campaign Against Homophobia.

Poland’s fall

ILGA has published its ranking and map showing the level of equality annually since 2009. It is not based on public opinion, but on existing legislation affecting the situation of LGBTI people in each country surveyed.

Countries can be given ratings from 0 to 100 percent. 69 evaluated categories are divided into six sections:

  • equality and non-discrimination;
  • family;
  • hate crimes and hate speech;
  • civil liberties;
  • gender reconciliation and bodily integrity;
  • rights to asylum.

Among the countries of the European Union, Poland has been hovering around the second-lowest place in the ranking for several years, but this year it has hit bottom. We have scored only 16 percent out of a possible 100.

Outside the EU, among all 46 countries studied, only 7 countries are worse: the principality of San Marino, Belarus, the principality of Monaco, Russia (where the Chechen authorities have organised concentration camps for homosexuals), Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan.

We are way behind

The ranking – available at this link – checks point by point whether each country’s legislation protects LGBTI people in specific aspects. And we come out of it badly.

Polish legislation only protects against discrimination in employment (in the provisions of the Labour Code). The protection of LGBTI people’s rights is still unregulated in education or healthcare, not to mention any constitutional guarantee of this group’s rights.

When it comes to access to goods and services, it’s even worse. In the annual report (January-December 2019) about how the rights of LGBTI people in Europe are complied with, ILGA cites a judgement by the Constitutional Tribunal which concluded that services could be refused to LGBT organisations on the basis of a kind of ‘conscience clause’. This involved the famous case of a printer from Łódź who refused to do a job for the LGBT Business Forum Foundation.

There is no national strategy or plan to combat existing discrimination, and as soon as initiatives begin to arise at the local level, the government turns away from them, calling them an attack on Polish families.

As for family rights, Poland does not score a single point in this category. We have neither partnerships, marriages, nor pro-family policies for non-heteronormative people. We lost our last points in this category a year ago, when Poland reserved in-vitro for married couples, excluding single mothers and lesbian couples.

We have not made any progress in the category of counteracting hate crimes and hate speech either , despite repeated calls by the Commissioner for Human Rights, who demanded that aggression against LGBT persons be added to Article 119 § 1, Art. 256 § 1 and Art. 257 of the Penal Code, which define offences motivated by prejudices and prosecuted ex officio.

It’s a bit better when it comes to gender: it can be changed in Poland, but the process is still difficult, long and stigmatising. There are no legal solutions that would facilitate procedures for gender correction and allow a person to take an independent decision on their gender identity without undue interference from doctors or court experts.

Polish President Andrzej Duda buried any chances of improving the situation. As soon as he took office in 2015, he threw the bill on gender assignment which the ruling PO-PSL majority had adopted into the waste bin.

Poland did gain an additional point in the ‘right to asylum’ category thanks to a judgement by a regional court, which decided that a refugee who does not have Polish citizenship but lives in Poland can go through the gender assignment procedure.

The work of Commissioner for Human Rights Adam Bodnar, who has opposed discrimination against LGBTI people, has also been appreciated.

Overwhelmed by the lack of freedom to assemble and express ourselves

Why have we dropped to last place? We have suffered the biggest losses in scoring in the category of ‘freedom of assembly, association and expression’ – mainly, as KPH (Poland’s Campaign Against Homophobia) explains, because of the bans on equality marches issued by local governments.

“While we had just one ban in 2018, which could be treated as an exception to the rule, in 2019 the ban on equality marches became a constant practice of city mayors, who - fully aware that they were wrong and they would lose in court – banned them for political reasons,” says attorney Karolina Gierdal from KPH, who among others has defended the Equality March in Rzeszów in the courts.

Poland also lost a point regarding the operation of organisations without any obstruction by the state. This is a result of the Family Charter adopted by some local governments, as well as the so-called anti-LGBT resolutions, introducing so-called ‘LGBT-free zones’, among other things.

Poland has also lost its status as a safe country for activists and activists working for the LGBT community. The motives for this included the lawsuits against the authors of the Atlas of Hatred which monitors the implementation of LGBT-free zones; the police intervention against Elżbieta Podleśna for her ‘Rainbow Mary’ artwork; many actions undertaken by public television, such as TVP’s broadcast of Invasion; and the embedding of a spy in KPH, which OKO.press was first to report on.

A European step backwards

Last year, the authors of the ranking reported sadly that for the first time in 10 years, Europe had begun to regress by abolishing some of the existing rights and programmes supporting LGBTI equality.

“We warned last year against the danger of thinking that our work was done. Unfortunately, this year we can see concrete evidence that an increasing number of countries are withdrawing their LGBT protection in the political and legislative fields,” the head of ILGA Evelyne Paradis commented in 2019, calling for urgent action: “There is no time to lose.”

Unfortunately, this year doesn’t look good either. Although ILGA notes progress on trans and intersex rights, it advises caution in drawing optimistic conclusions. “Attacks on trans groups have been recorded in more and more countries in the region, especially in the form of hate speech spreading across the internet. The security and prosperity of trans communities in Europe are still uncertain, and have become even more fragile during the pandemic,” says Viima Lampinen from ILGA Europe’s board of directors.

ILGA has drawn attention to the stagnation regarding changes in favour of LGBT equality and the further restrictions of their rights in some countries. The most dramatic change for the worse was noted in Hungary, falling from 41 to 33 percent; France fell from 63 to 56 percent.

“In conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately strikes at the most vulnerable, and is being used by some governments as an excuse to accelerate the limitation of human rights, this year’s Map shows that we are facing a decisive moment for LGBT equality in Europe,” commented Paradis.



Marta K. Nowak

Absolwentka MISH na UAM, ukończyła latynoamerykanistykę w ramach programu Master Internacional en Estudios Latinoamericanos. 3 lata mieszkała w Ameryce Łacińskiej. Polka z urodzenia, Brazylijka z powołania. W OKO.press pisze o zdrowiu, migrantach i pograniczach więziennictwa (ośrodek w Gostyninie).