Iceland Moves Up In Rank For Queer Rights, Still Has Room For Improvement

Iceland Moves Up In Rank For Queer Rights, Still Has Room For Improvement

Published May 15, 2020

Photo by
Art Bicnick

According to a new assessment from ILGA-Europe, Iceland has moved up in rank, from 18th place to 14th out of 49 European countries when it comes to queer rights. This is in large part due to last year’s passage of a law expanding the rights of trans people. At the same time, the assessment recognises much room for improvement, in particular with regards to non-discrimination, intersex people, trans children, and asylum seekers.

Trans adults gain, trans youth and intersex overlooked

Iceland’s overall score is 54%, putting the country above Europe’s overall score of 38%. A particular area of praise is in regard to “legal gender recognition and bodily integrity”, as last year’s law has removed much of the gatekeeping that trans people experience elsewhere in the world when it comes to changing their names and legal gender markers, and getting access to trans-specific health services.

However, a more detailed report on the matter notes that this does not apply to trans youth, who still may not change their names and gender markers without parental consent or, absent that, the opinion of an expert panel.

More troubling, intersex children are still not protected from the medically unnecessary and non-consensual surgeries they are often subjected to shortly after birth. Instead, the law allowed for the establishment of a special committee to review the situation over the next 12 months from passage.

Discrimination protections and asylum seekers

The report notes that “another bill was passed about protection from discrimination in all areas of life on the grounds of race or ethnicity, while the new law pertaining sexual orientation, gender identity, sex characteristics and gender expression only refer to the area of employment.”

While the report recognises that asylum seekers can have their names and gender markers changed, it also notes that Icelandic law does not grant explicit protections for queer asylum seekers. Rather, they note that section VII on the Law on Foreigners, ‘Refugees and Protection Against Persecution’, “refers to ‘membership of a particular social group’, which in Article 44a is said to include ‘a group of people who…share common characteristics or a background which cannot be changed’, which could be interpreted as covering LGBT people. If this is the case, provisions relating to refugees seeking asylum could be interpreted to refer to those experiencing persecution on the basis of sexual orientation.”

All this bring the case, it is clear that Iceland is improving when it comes to queer rights, but there is at the same time quite a ways to go.

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