Last year, Sweden was singled out as the most gay-friendly tourism destination in the world, but a new index showed on Thursday that Sweden actually lagged behind many European neighbours – including neighbour Norway, when it came to putting your laws where your mouth is.
The Rainbow Europe Map reflects 49 European countries’ legislation and policies that have a direct impact on the enjoyment of human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and intersex (LGBTI) people.
Sweden scored 65 percent in the gay-friendly ranking, putting it on par with France (63 percent) but below Norway (68 percent).The three most gay-friendly countries were the UK, Belgium, and Spain – fulfilling 82, 78, and 73 percent respectively of the organization's requirements.
The report credited Sweden for continuing "to close existing legal gaps related to the protection of the human rights of LGBTI people" and mentioned specifically that people who undergo gender reassignment no longer have to submit to being sterilized.
"Over 150 trans individuals already forcibly sterilized now seek legal redress," the report from ILGA-Europe stated.
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The report also noted that Swedish migration case workers had not been trained in how to process asylum claims from LGBTI immigrants.
"Asylum policies for LGBTI asylum seekers were also strongly criticized for their inconsistency," the report noted, citing a summary of the migration law applications by Swedish LGBT organization RFSL.
The organization credited the Swedish foreign minister and the EU affairs minister for speaking out against Russia outlawing what it termed gay "propaganda" directed at minors.
The report mentioned a Stockholm school's decision to add a third non-gendered changing room for its pupils, the wedding of two Ugandan men in Sweden, the country's first LGBT retirement home, and Swedish Crown Princess Victoria attending the annual Gay Gala.
The European map showed a clear east-west divide. Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia were in the bottom five alongside western European mini-state Monaco.
Italy defied the east-west divide and was the only country in western Europe that does not offer any form of rights or protection for the LGBTI community.
"While the human rights of LGBTI people have undoubtedly gained great visibility across Europe, progress in terms of real legal, political and social changes vary considerably from one country to another," said Gabi Calleja, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s executive board.
"In large part depending on levels of societal acceptance, of political leadership and political will, as well as the strength of civil society in a given country.”