THE UK is going “backwards” on transgender rights while other European countries make progress, research has found.

Researchers have argued that anti-trans hatred has seeped into the UK Government’s agenda and in the media across the UK, pushing the UK down rankings of countries across Europe and Central Asia.

The Trans Rights Index has been collecting data on the overall progress of transgender rights since it was established in 2013.

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To mark a decade of the research, Transgender Europe (TGEU) published an analysis of their findings, which saw the UK and Hungary significantly dropping down the rankings.

In 2013, the UK took the top spot for trans rights, but in 2023 is now ranked at number 21. Meanwhile, Hungary dropped from second to 29th.

It comes after the UK dropped down a table of "safe" LGBT countries earlier this month, amid a row between the Scottish and UK Governments over Holyrood's introduction of self-identification in the process allowing trans people to legally change gender.

The UK Government blocked Scotland’s gender reforms from becoming law, after it was passed by MSPs from all of Holyrood’s five main parties, with the two governments now set to face a legal battle over the legislation. 

The National: The gender reforms were blocked from becoming lawThe gender reforms were blocked from becoming law (Image: PA)

The Scottish Greens said the recent findings were “alarming” and said it is “vital” that the gender reforms, part of the SNP-Green Bute House agreement, are implemented.

There were 54 countries from Europe and Central Asia included in the analysis. The UK was one of 14 countries that did not have legal gender recognition “consistently available” according to TGEU. 

Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Monaco, San-Marino, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, were other countries where legal gender recognition is “not consistently available”, according to the research. 

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Elsewhere Iceland, Malta, and Luxembourg make up the ranking's top three, having made “major progress since 2013”, TGEU said.

“The United Kingdom and Hungary have gone backwards, from progressive leaders of our Index in 2013 to places where anti-trans hatred is widespread in the media and government agendas,” Freya Watkins, a researcher at TGEU explained.

“The past decade also saw a big increase in states including gender identity in asylum protection laws, but in practice many countries continue to fail trans asylum seekers. This shows us that ultimately, legislation means nothing without implementation."

Watkins added that the findings showed that “progress is not inevitable”.

Lenny Emson, TGEU’s executive director, said that while the trans community can be proud of its achievements, “there is no time for complacency”.

The National: People take part in a demonstration for trans rights outside the UK Government Office at Queen Elizabeth House in Edinburgh. The UK Government made the decision on Monday to block the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, passed by the Scottish

“To solidify the progress, policy makers and allies need to find the courage and respond loud and clear to attacks against trans people,” Emson said.

“The best way to fight the backlash is to go forward.”

Catherine Murphy, Engender's executive director, said she had been concerned for a "long time" about the "deepening polarisation" in public debate around trans rights, and argued reasoned debate on human rights is being drowned out by disinformation. 

"The false idea that trans people’s and women’s rights are in conflict has been allowed to take hold and has been politicized in cynical and harmful ways," Murphy said. 

"Trans people across Scotland and the UK have endured years of being dangerously misrepresented and sadly we are now seeing the impact on people’s lives. It’s heart-breaking.

"These findings are damning and show that we are now losing pace with our European and international neighbours on equality and human rights.

"This should be a warning that we need to urgently refocus this debate on evidence, compassion and protecting the rights of an extremely marginalized group in our society."

Maggie Chapman MSP said the statistics show how the UK risks slipping further behind the rest of the EU and that the toxic debate is “compromising safety” for trans people.

“This proves just how vital it is that we are able to implement meaningful gender reform that our parliament voted for, or risk being left behind just as the rest of Europe is taking such great strides on equalities,” the Scottish Greens equalities spokesperson said.

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“My heart goes out to all those who thought we had turned one corner, only to face another wall of hate and ignorance emboldened by some politicians and media outlets who will be proven to be on the wrong side of history.

"The issue is about far more than the UK's ranking on a list, although that emphasises how much worse things have got in a short period of time.

"It makes it all the more vital that we are able to implement the gender reform that our parliament voted for and to take the steps that are so badly needed to transform trans healthcare and ban conversion practices.

“That’s what I have been calling for, it’s what I’ll continue to do. The alternative is unthinkable.”

A spokesperson for the UK Government’s Equality Hub said: “The UK has a proud history of LGBT rights, and one of the world's most comprehensive and robust legislative protection frameworks for LGBT people.

“We have already taken great strides, including the publication of our HIV Action Plan, the founding of our Conversion Practice Victim Support Service, and the extension of same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland.”