As part of EuropeActive’s commitment to promote and safeguard an inclusive and welcoming environment for all across the fitness and physical activity ecosystem, we are acknowledging and celebrating the LGBTIQ+ community and Pride Month. As such, we are thrilled to shine the spotlight on inspiring stakeholders who are proactively acknowledging, supporting, and celebrating the LGBTIQ+ community. This is further correlated with our European activities as it falls under our awareness-raising activities for our #HealthyLifestyle4All pledge.
ILGA-Europe is the European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, uniting over 600 organisations from 54 countries across Europe and Central Asia. ILGA-Europe’s Partnership Manager Anna Shepherd kindly agreed to answer some questions about their annual mapping and celebrating and supporting the LGBTI community.
The 2022 Annual Rainbow Europe Map was published 12 May. How would you describe this impressive piece of work and its achievements to someone who has never heard of it? 
The Rainbow Europe Map is a benchmarking tool that voices the priorities of the LGBTI movement and holds governments accountable. It ranks 49 countries in Europe on the basis of laws and policies that impact LGBTI people’s lives. This means that countries that got almost 100% points, like Malta, Denmark or Belgium, respect most of the human rights of LGBTI people, while in those at the bottom of the scale, there are gross violations of human rights and discrimination against communities and individuals.  
How is this done in practice? Let’s take the example of Belgium, which is in third position this year. We look at the implemented laws and policies guided by country experts on the ground. Are there measures to protect LGBTI people from hate speech? Can same-sex couples get married and enjoy the same rights of other married couples? Can trans people legally register their gender? We award points if there is a positive answer in 74 criteria under 7 categories. These criteria evolve along with the LGBTI movement and send a message to governments on the work that needs to be done. 
Why is it important for professionals and companies to acknowledge awareness days such as IDAHOBIT, Pride Month or EU Diversity Month and to proactively support the LGBTIQ+ community? 
It’s important first of all for creating a safe and inclusive workplace for LGBTI employees and taking part in raising awareness about challenges still faced by LGBTI communities. But beyond company walls, businesses can also play an important role in shifting attitudes in the markets where they operate, for example through positive representation in advertising and making the case for LGBTI inclusion to governments in ways that civil society alone cannot. This is why it’s important to build bridges between businesses and civil society and join efforts in our work for LGBTI right and equality. It’s also increasingly clear that it’s not just the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense for companies to be LGBTI inclusive, whether in terms of attracting and retaining diverse talent or meeting increasing consumer demands for companies to take a stand on LGBTI rights and offer inclusive goods and services.  
How would you advise professionals or companies who would like to take their first steps to support the community and the movement, but are concerned of falling into pink washing? 
Companies need to do the work. Giving visibility to LGBTI communities once per year during Pride month is definitely not enough. There needs to be a long-term approach and a sustained effort to support LGBTI communities also when nobody is watching. Firstly, make sure your own house is in order. Are your HR policies and practices inclusive of LGBTI staff, for example parental leave for rainbow families or support for transitioning employees? Create an inclusive workplace culture by listening and understanding the context for LGBTI employees, supporting LGBTI staff networks and providing training to all staff. Secondly, aim to create real meaningful change for LGBTI communities by working alongside civil society organisations and LGBTI activists. Learn from LGBTI communities and find out what is most helpful and effective in your context – whether taking a loud public stand or providing quiet behind the scenes support. If you’re planning a Pride campaign, make sure it involves concrete support to an LGBTI organisation. 
To go further: 
  • ILGA-Europe’s podcast ‘The Frontline’ is available here, covering LGBTI activism and lives across Europe and Central Asia
  • Anna Shepherd hosted a mini-series on engaging the business sector for LGBTI equality available here  
  • ILGA-Europe’s annual Rainbow Map and Index available here 
Jun 16, 2022 By Ioana Marica