An annual review by the non-governmental organization ILGA-Europe places Estonia 24th in terms of LGBTI human rights in a ranking of 49 European countries.
For the fourth year in a row, the United Kingdom (85.55 percent) takes the top spot on the Rainbow Europe Index, with Azerbaijan ranking worst (5 percent) in terms of progress for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) individuals throughout 2014. Estonia finds itself center-chart with a 33.75 percent ranking.
The Rainbow Europe Index sees countries ranked in terms of progress toward the respect of human rights and full equality for LGBTI individuals on a scale between 0 percent (gross violations of human rights, discrimination) and 100 percent (respect of human rights, full equality), covering aspects of discrimination, family recognition, hate speech and crimes, gender recognition, freedom of assembly, association and express, and asylum laws.
The 2015 report sees Estonia highlighted as the first former Soviet country to open unions to same-sex couples as a result of last year's heated Cohabitation Act; Estonian employers' expressions for equality in the workplace are also noted. Dropping four places in the overall ranking, Estonia finds its score only slightly worsened in comparison to 34 percent in the 2014 Index.
Throughout 2014, Estonia fared best in criteria covering freedoms of assembly and expression (100 percent of criteria covered) as well as above average legal gender recognition and bodily integrity (61 percent), whilst retaining a low score for family recognition (36 percent) due to a lack of marriage equality, registered partnerships and joint adoptions. The country's low score is also attributable to a lack of legislation in preventing hate crime and hate speech (18 percent).
The 2015 report sees Malta as a 'shooting star' for its legislative and consititutional improvements, having become the first European country to constitutionally outlaw discrimination based on gender identity alongside legalizing civil unions for all couples in 2014. Climbing 8 spots and 30 percent in comparison to the 2014 Index, Malta finds itself in the top three following the UK (85.55 percent) and Belgium (83.4 percent).
Finland finds itself as the second highest climber, with a 17 percent increase in score in comparison to the 2014 Index. The Finnish Parliament successfully voted on marriage equality in December 2014.
Neighboring Latvia (27th with 18 percent) finds itself in focus for the increased visibility for LGBTI individuals in the public arena, with the country's foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs coming out as gay on Twitter in November 2014. Rinkēvičs' advocacy is noted alongside Poland's (22nd) openly gay mayoral candidates as well as the success of Austria's (15th) Conchita Wurst at Eurovision.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan (9 percent), Russia (8 percent) and Armenia (9 percent) form the bottom three of the Index, with vocal campaigns for restrictive marriage definitions in Slovakia (ranking 25th) and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (ranking 42nd) additionally noted as severe hindrances for LGBTI individuals in Europe. Worrying government restrictions were also noted for Hungary (ranking 16th), facing the highest drop (4 percent) in score since last year's report.
The annual Rainbow Europe Index has been compiled by ILGA-Europe since 2009. Results from the review are released on the online hub Rainbow Europe to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17.
Editor: A. Kaer