Iceland has fallen even further behind several other European countries in terms of legal rights and protections for LGBTQIA+ people.
The 2018 annual review conducted by ILGA-Europe, an international NGO that advocates for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people, shows that Iceland has stagnated while other European countries have made advancements in the realm of queer rights.
GayIceland asked Unnsteinn Jóhannsson, the International Secretariat for the National queer organisation of Iceland, Samtökin ’78, what that means for queer rights in Iceland.
“Actually Iceland stands at the same place as the year before though we are falling from place 16 to place 18 – 20,” Unnsteinn explains. “This does not come as a surprise as no changes have been made since last year regarding legislation or other matters in the ranking of ILGA-Europe Rainbow map. Due to rapid changes of governments and that Icelanders have been voting for parliament more than usual slows down any progress on new legislation. As well as some of the criteria and new legislation has been met with doubt and questions from politicians. Such as the legislative proposal that aims to protect individuals on the workforce, where politicians have debated and asked why minorities have to be included in the legislation.”
“As we have seen in international politics attitudes can change over night and therefore it is crucial that we do have legislation that protects and includes minorities.”
Where does Iceland lose points in the report?
“Iceland does not lose any points but as I said we are at a stand still. Other countries are getting their act together and advancing.”
Should LGBTQIA+ people living in Iceland be concerned about the results of this report?
“Of course, this shows clearly that the queer utopia Iceland prides itself on being is not to be found with the legislator. We do feel that Icelanders as well as those in power have had a positive and supportive attitude towards the LGBTQIA+ community but on the other hand the legislation has not improved.
Trans people are still subjected to the 2012 legislation for people with “gender identity disorder” which is so lacking in fundamental human rights principles and so far behind in ensuring quality healthcare that the national hospitals trans team routinely breaks the law in their practice. Intersex people are still offered no protection under Icelandic law.
For some it might feel or seem like not necessary to change the laws, include LGBTQIA+ in anti-discrimination and equality legislation and the act on foreigners but we can not always be sure of this positive attitude toward us. As we have seen in international politics attitudes can change over night and therefore it is crucial that we do have legislation that protects and includes minorities.”
How much do you think Iceland’s treatment of asylum seekers has influenced its ranking?
“Since last year’s Rainbow map nothing has really changed. We have still seen cases where queer asylum seekers are fighting the system on regular basis instead of being protected as a vulnerable minority .
There are no laws to protect the rights of queer asylum seekers and acknowledges the extremely delicate situation they are in. The Directorate of immigration has yet to have their staff adequately trained on the issues that Queer asylum seekers can face.
This year we did see a positive step taken by the state as we welcomed 10 queer refugees, it is a step forward and our hope is that this will become a higher number in the years to come.”
“… it is not a proud flag to wave on international level that Iceland is now closer to the Balkans and Eastern Europe in legislative protections than the other Nordic states and western Europe.”
Do you anticipate Iceland continuing to fall in these rankings in the future?
“I would be surprised if we keep standing still and that Iceland does not start to score higher in the next years. We know that in the current governments coalition agreement there are several mentions of things that gives us a positive feeling for the next years to come. Yet due to the unstable political atmosphere of the last years there is no way of knowing how fast this will change.
A positive attitude and promises that things will happen are only so good if we do not see action being taken by legislators. We do not have unlimited patience and it is not a proud flag to wave on international level that Iceland is now closer to the Balkans and Eastern Europe in legislative protections than the other Nordic states and western Europe.”