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Iceland, the Gay-friendliest Country in the World

(Blogmensgo, gay blog of April 28, 2018) According to a meta-analysis by the Williams Institute of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Iceland is the gay-friendliest and Azerbaijan the most homophobic country in the world. This is reflected in the Global LGBT Acceptance Index (GAI), an index comprising the results of several studies from 141 countries over the period 1981-2014. The analysis published on April 18, 2018 showed that 57% of the countries surveyed (80 out of 141) have made progress in accepting LGBT people since 1980, while 33% (46 countries) had regressed. Surprisingly, the countries at the top of the ranking are those that have made the most progress and the lowest-ranking ones are the countries with the most setbacks in about thirty years.

The GAI score was calculated over two different periods (2004-2008 and 2009-2013) using the difference between the two scores as a measure for progress or regression.

Polarized Progress


Only Iceland (7.37 points) scored over 7 points in the period 2009-2013, and already before that, for the years 2004-2008, only Iceland (6.02) had achieved more than 6 points. With an increase of 1.35 points, Iceland’s step forward is far better than any other country in the top 10.

The top 10 GAI scores for the period 2009-2013:

  1. Iceland (7,37)
  2. Netherlands (6,67)
  3. Sweden (6,55)
  4. Denmark (6,31)
  5. Andorra (6,04)
  6. Norway (5,92)
  7. Belgium (5,92)
  8. Spain (5,90)
  9. France (5,74)
  10. Switzerland (5,73)

These are the five lowest-ranking countries:

  • Rank 137: Rwanda (1,56)
  • Rank 138: Egypt (1,50)
  • Rank 139: Bangladesh (1,30)
  • Rank 140: Georgia (1,08)
  • Rank 141: Azerbaijan (0,96)

It does not come as a surprise that almost all Scandinavian countries (except Finland, which is historically closer to Estonia and Russia) are at the top of the rankings. Cape Verde and Ireland were in the top 10 in the first period, but not in the second, although they are still close together. The two new entrants in the upper segment are France and Switzerland, which were already well placed in the first period.

It is not surprising either that the last ten in the list are the same in both periods, although with slightly different individual rankings.

Surprisingly though, Switzerland is in the top 10 in the second period, because it still prohibits same-sex marriages and has not passed any laws against discrimination against LGBT persons. Some countries are likely to be slightly lower in the 2009-2013 ranking because they only legalized homosexual marriages in 2014 (United Kingdom), 2015 (Luxembourg, Ireland) or 2017 (Finland, Malta, Germany).

Supposedly, Afghanistan, Russia and all the other former Soviet republics of Central Asia may rank at the very end of the list. This is not the case however, although their GAI values are still very low: Russia (2.91), Uzbekistan (2.85), Kazakhstan (2.69) and Kyrgyzstan (2.64). Tajikistan and Afghanistan do not appear on the list, probably due to the lack of reliable data.

From a purely scientific point of view, this study is not worth too much. The data comes from different sources and studies whose methodology is anything but uniform.

The GAI index is composed of objective elements such as laws, ordinances, court decisions, LGBT-phobic physical violence, recognition or non-recognition of LGBT associations, etc., but also includes subjective elements such as discrimination at the workplace, social attitudes, health services and beliefs towards LGBT persons, verbal abuse and harassment, newspaper coverage, and tolerance or intolerance on the part of religion and clergy towards the LGBT community.

The methodology of the studies, even the (cultural and linguistic) interpretation of certain terms (what exactly does “acceptance” mean?) is also extremely different.

Finally, it should also be noted that the results of the meta-analysis were outdated even before they were published, because the most recent figures date from 2014, and countless events – for or against the LGBT community – have occurred since then, which naturally influences the dynamics of the topic.

For more information:
Andrew R. Flores & Andrew Park (eds.) : Polarized progress – Social Acceptance of LGBT People in 141 Countries, 1981 to 2014. Los Angeles, The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, March 2018 (Press release | Summary).

Frank-S / MensGo

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