As reported last week, Iceland only ranks number 14 on the 2016 Rainbow Europe Chart. Shocking news for those who believe Iceland is somewhat a utopia for LGBTI+ people, GayIceland contacted the Ministry of Welfare in Iceland to get their reaction.
Why is it that Iceland is falling behind other European countries in LGTBI+ rights?
“ILGA’s rating does not reveal that LGBTI+ people’s circumstances in Iceland have gotten worse but shows that other countries have made improvements, such as Malta,” says Eygló Harðardóttir, the Minister of Social Affairs in Iceland, referring to the fact that Malta has one of the most progressive law regarding trans and intersex people in the world and is now leading the chart, after having been in the third place last year. That year Malta became the first country to pass a law that outlaws unnecessary surgery on intersex babies, that also allows for someone to change their legal gender through simply filing an affidavit with a notary without a significant waiting period, eliminates any requirement for medical gender reassignment procedures, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Amongst other things.
To the outside world, Iceland is often referred to as a queer utopia; do you think that the negative outcome of the Rainbow Europe chart could spoil that image that we have? “To say that Iceland is a queer utopia is definitely an overstatement, even though the conditions for LGBTI+ people here are very good compared to many other countries.”
“The journey won’t end until sexual orientation and gender identity have become irrelevant and people will become just people in the eyes of each other.”
What can be done to improve this and who is responsible for that? “The biggest obstacle for Iceland according to the ILGA assessment is that Icelandic authorities haven’t implemented directive 2000/43/EB, regarding the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin, and directive 2000/78/EB, regarding equal treatment in employment and occupation.
The ILGA also takes into account that trans people can’t change their name at the Registers Iceland (Þjóðskrá) in accordance to their gender identity, unless having undergone gender reassignment, according to the law on legal status of persons with gender identity disorder. This is something that the legislator, that is Parliament, needs to review.”
Minister Eygló attended the IDAHO Forum that was held in Copenhagen last week. It was the fourth time that this annual forum against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia was held and that’s where the results of this year’s Rainbow Chart ratings were revealed.
Eygló and other attending ministers signed a declaration of intent, committing to keep promoting actions against discrimination against LGBTI people and acknowledgement of their social inclusion, amongst other things.
Quoted on the Ministry’s website, Eygló welcomes the Rainbow Chart as a measure of restraint for Icelandic authorities. “We have been progressive in ensuring the rights of LGBTI+ people by legislation, but what is no less important is the change in attitude towards LGBTI+ people, that has evolved in the last few years.
Nonetheless, it’s important to continue ensuring the rights of LGBTI+ people both in theory and practice. The journey won’t end until sexual orientation and gender identity have become irrelevant and people will become just people in the eyes of each other.”
Last week GayIceland interviewed Kitty Anderson, the International Secretariat for the queer organisation of Iceland, Samtökin ’78, and chairperson of Intersex Iceland, on the matter. Kitty said that of course it is a matter of concern that we are falling behind the countries that we compare ourselves to in securing the legal rights of LGTBI+ people. “We need strong legal frameworks regarding workplaces, the school system, health services, and we need to act quickly to bring on some action plan to change the current situation,“ she pointed out. “We need laws that grant all LGTBI+ people protection and equal rights in every sector of society. Even though we pride ourselves on our progressive and liberal views in these matters, the laws are still far behind the public opinion. That has to change.“
Kitty said she hoped that a committee on queer matters that Minister Eygló Harðardóttir, founded in 2014 will hand in its conclusions shortly, and hopefully new laws will follow.