Ireland, where it's okay to be gay but tough to be trans
Perhaps the most aggressive restriction of LGBT rights is in Russia, where recent anti-propaganda laws fine anyone engaged in “public activities to promote sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transsexualism”.
Russia is in the red zone on the Rainbow map, indicating “gross violations of human rights and discrimination”.
“It’s a problem, because what is propaganda or homosexualism?” says Kseniya Kirichenko, a lawyer from St Petersburg who runs legal assistance for Russia’s LGBT network. “Our traditional court defined propaganda as public dissemination of information that could be harmful for children, or information that could lead to deformed ideas about social equality of traditional and nontraditional marital relationships.”
In Russia, Pride parades fall into the propaganda category and have been banned since 2004. This year a Moscow court upheld a ban for the next 100 years. “It’s not actually possible to have a ban for 100 years. On formal grounds you cannot apply for a 100-year event, you can apply only one month before an event for permission,” says Kirichenko. Hate crimes and homophobic attacks have also increased in Russia.
In Lithuania, LGBT rights are also being pushed backwards. The country has antidiscrimination legislation, and permission was granted for its first Pride parade in 2010, but there are pending bills in parliament to outlaw “homosexual propaganda”.
“We don’t have civil partnership or public representatives who speak openly on LGBT issues,” says Vilma Gabreliute from the Lithuanian LGBT group House of Diversity and Education. With no sex education or support for LGBT youth in schools, coming out publicly at a young age is impossible.
Gabreliute says homophobia and sexism are rampant: “If a young person wants to come out they have nowhere to go.”
The Irish organisation BelonGTo has spearheaded youth support internationally and was praised by the UN as a global model for best practice. It provides education in schools and a safe space for young LGBT people.
Paulo Corte-Real, a professor of economics at Universidade Nova de Lisbona, says a similar programme is needed in Portugal. “There is nowhere for young people. If they come out or suffer violence at home they face admission to housing by the state. That is run mainly by religious groups.”
In 2010, Portugal became the sixth country in Europe to allow civil marriage for same-sex couples, an ironic consequence of the economic crisis. “The president announced he would allow it because it would take attention off economic issues,” says Corte-Real.
The interviews in this article took place at the recent conference hosted by the ILGA (Equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people in Europe)