Malta has once again topped the ranking for LGBTIQ protections and human rights in Europe, but the country was called out for its treatment of migrants and asylum seekers in an annual review by LGBTIQ group ILGA Europe.
The ranking grades European countries based on how the laws and policies impact the lives of LGBTIQ people, taking into account several indicators including equality, family issues, hate speech, legal gender recognition, freedom of expression and asylum rights.
The island placed first on the index with a score of 93.78 per cent, with a gap of 15 percentage points between Malta and runner-up Denmark, which scored 78.5 per cent.
The countries with the best ranked LGBTIQ rights behind Malta and Denmark in the list were Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway and France.
Conversely, Azerbaijan was the worst-ranked country in Europe for LGBTIQ rights with a score of 2.33 per cent, followed by Turkey, Armenia and Russia, which all scored below 10 per cent.
Discrimination against asylum seekers
However, despite topping the ratings, Malta was still called out for being a country where LGBTIQ asylum seekers face “double discrimination”.
“A core finding for ILGA-Europe from this narrative report is the anomaly between our Annual Review and the other component of this module, the Rainbow
Europe Map, which ranks countries based on legislative change,” the report says.
“The situation for LGBTIQ asylum seekers, for instance, is almost invariably fraught with specific difficulties and injustice, despite some countries placing high in the rankings for positive legislative change.
“Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK are among the countries where LGBTI asylum seekers face double discriminations.”
Elaborating on this in Malta’s country report, ILGA Europe highlighted a new government policy in which asylum seekers arriving from “safe countries” will not be eligible for a work permit for nine months following their arrival.
The report also noted that bias-motivated hate speech and violence was a recurrent issue on the island, citing the account of singer-songwriter Lucy Spraggan, who is a lesbian, being harassed while holidaying here last year.
“MGRM shared its concern this year that the police response to incidents of hate speech or hate crime remains flawed and insufficient,” the report said.
“In 2020, MGRM’s online survey found that over 50 per cent of LGTBIQ respondents felt unsafe in Paceville, Malta’s main nightclub hub, and reported being denied entry into clubs or harassment.
“In July for instance, news articles circulated about homophobic bouncers in a club.”
The report also gave an overview of the healthcare system in relation to LGBTIQ patients. Malta’s gender well-being clinic has welcomed 200 trans people since opening in 2018, with a new plastic surgeon appointed in the autumn.
Training was also delivered to 180 health practitioners and 300 reception staff about the barriers to healthcare that LGBTIQ people face.
However, work on an updated sexual health policy had stalled in October due to outdated information, while Malta still has the highest transmission rates of HIV in Europe.
The report also shared that the National Statistics Office (NSO) had for the first time included questions on sexual orientation and gender identity in the census, while a Maltese MEP had taken the lead on a European Parliament resolution to declare the EU an LGBTIQ Freedom Zone, following the adoption of a propaganda law in Hungary and continued attacks against the LGBTIQ community in Poland.
Looking at overall trends in Europe, the review found that there has been a rise in anti-LGBTIQ rhetoric from politicians, as well as violence and hate crimes reported in every country.
“Politicians in countries across Europe, not just in the usually reported Hungary and Poland, have continued to demonise LGBTIQ people over the past year, leading to a stark rise in anti-LGBTI attacks, burning of rainbow flags, and targeting of young LGBTI people in particular,” it said.
“Reported violence against LGBTIQ people in this context across Europe was rife.
“Germany had a 39 per cent increase in anti-LGBTI hate crime, while a new app in France, where users can report anti-LGBTI hate crimes, collected reports of 3,896 incidents in its first year.”