Written by: Kate Petriw Comms and Narrative Co-Lead at WEAll
It’s no surprise that there is a direct correlation between countries working towards becoming Wellbeing Economies, and those routinely ranked among the top 10 safe havens for the LGBTQ+ community. It makes sense as these countries have developed frameworks that go beyond profit and GDP, and recognise that fairness, dignity, safety and happiness all are crucial factors in societal development.
According to the Rainbow Index, which ranks European countries based on their LGBTQ+ rights, protections, and equality legislation, Finland and Iceland came in 5th and 6th, respectively. In the Spartacus Gay Travel Index, Canada comes in at #2 and New Zealand at #4. These countries make up two-thirds of the Wellbeing Economy Government Partnership Program (WEGo), a group that aims to promote the wellbeing of people and the planet as the ultimate goal of economic development instead of solely focusing on GDP growth.
Two key pillars in the wellbeing economy framework (as per WEAll’s 5 needs) are dignity and fairness, which ensures everyone has the right to live in comfort, and safety and are offered equal opportunities. In this blog post, we’ll look at countries that are part of WEGo who are creating safer environments for LGBTQ+ communities, highlighting examples of progressive policies and practices that foster acceptance, equality, and happiness.
Countries like Iceland, Finland, and Canada have enacted robust legal frameworks that safeguard the rights of LGBTQ+ people, fostering a sense of security and promoting equal treatment under the law. They aim to prioritize anti-discrimination laws that explicitly protect LGBTQ+ individuals. This may seem straightforward, but in many places throughout the world, not only do anti-discrimination laws not exist, but it is illegal to be gay (64 countries to be exact). Just in May, Uganda’s Prime Minister enacted one of the harshed anti-LGBTQ laws, including the death penalty for homosexuality which has caused an obvious uproar across Africa.
Marriage Equality, Adoption and Parental Rights
Dignity means ensuring the LGBTQ+ community has the right to marry and raise children. Canada was one of the first countries to legalize marriage in 2005, and Finland, Iceland, Wales, Scotland and New Zealand all offer equal rights and recognition to same-sex couples, acknowledging that love is a birthright for all.
In addition, adoption is also legal for the LGBTQ+ community in these countries, and they also offer support to parents during the fertility process.
A wellbeing economy is one where we look out for one another, especially those oppressed and marginalized by our economic system, like the LGBTQ+ community. Research has shown that those that identify as LGBTQ earn 22% less than cis-gender workers in the UK. Another report also found 3 housing discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation for every 100,000 LGBTQ adults each year in the US.
Wellbeing Economies aim to ensure fairness is embedded within the system by default. If countries are only measuring their success based on GDP and looking at profit alone (i.e how well the housing market is doing), they will miss crucial markers that system-impacted communities like LGBTQ+ aren’t making genuine progress.
Although anti-discrimination laws in many WEGo countries allow individuals to seek legal recourse against housing or workplace discrimination, there’s still a way to go in shifting societal attitudes towards LGBTQ+ acceptance.
Gender Identity Recognition
Countries like Finland and Canada have enacted laws that allow individuals to legally change their gender marker without unnecessary requirements or invasive procedures. However, Finland only jumped in their Rainbow ranking as they recently changed their outdated trans laws so that gender can be changed based on self-identification. Many countries like Iran or Japan (up until 2020) require individuals to undergo gender confirmation surgery to change official documents. Appallingly other countries, which included Finland up until recently, individuals had to declare themselves sterile before changing legal documents.
Existing in a physical form that doesn’t align with one’s true identity can be an incredibly distressing ordeal for numerous individuals. Startling statistics from a study revealed that in 2022, 50% of transgender and non-binary teenagers contemplated suicide. Having the assurance of residing in a country that embraces and empowers them, providing avenues to legally recognize their self-identified gender in a manner that resonates with their authentic selves, can foster a sense of safety and liberation for trans and non-binary individuals to express their true selves.
In both Scotland and Wales, the inclusion of LGBTQ+ issues in the curriculum is a priority. In Scotland, the “Education (Scotland) Act 2018” mandates that schools offer education on LGBTQ+ rights, history, and equality as part of their curriculum. Similarly, in Wales, the “Sexuality and Relationships Education Guidance” encourages schools to teach about LGBTQ+ topics, relationships, and identities in a manner that promotes inclusivity and respect.
These progressive moves signify significant strides forward. However, it is disheartening that some teachers fail to actively embrace the curriculum, and this can, lead to persistent instances of bullying and marginalization. However, some countries like Russia are quite far behind, having implemented laws restricting the discussion of LGBTQ+ rights and education. Clearly, there is still a substantial distance to cover on the path to equality. Nonetheless, by planting the seeds of awareness and ensuring that education policies prioritize the safety and wellbeing of these marginalized communities, we can establish a solid groundwork for a more just and inclusive society.
Residing in a place where you feel accepted and belong holds a tremendous amount of significance. It lies at the core of constructing a Wellbeing Economy. While GDP currently occupies the top spot on everyone’s priority list, let’s envision a world where care takes precedence. Countries aiming to move towards a Wellbeing Economy are clearly making great steps in creating safer environments for LGBTQ+ communities by prioritizing inclusivity, equality, and respect for diversity. This further strengthens the case for placing wellbeing economy frameworks at top of the political agenda.
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