LGBT rights in the Faroe Islands

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the Faroe Islands may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. While same-sex sexual activity has been legal in the Faroe Islands for decades, same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples remain ineligible for some legal rights available to opposite-sex couples. However, after long having been a taboo subject, public opinion of homosexuality and transsexualism is becoming more liberal.

LGBT rights in the Faroe Islands Faroe Islands
Faroe Islands
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Decriminalized since 1933, age of consent equalized since 1988.
Gender identity/expression Not legal
Military service Gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly in the army since 1978
Discrimination protections Yes, but for hate crime and hate speech only
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition
Adoption No stepchild adoption and joint adoption for same-sex couples. Unknown whether individuals can adopt.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in the Faroe Islands since 1933, when it was part of Denmark.

At that time, the age of consent was set at 18 for male same-sex relations. While Denmark and Greenland lowered the age of consent to 15 in 1977, making it gender-neutral, the Faroe Islands did not change its law until 1988.[1]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

The Faroe Islands are the only Nordic country that does not recognise same-sex unions.

Denmark legalised same-sex marriage in 2012 and Greenland adopted the law in 2015, but similar attempts to adopt the law have been rejected by the Faroe Islands. Despite a call by MP Finnur Helmsdal for adoption of the Danish same-sex registered partnership law during the 2007 Tórshavn gay pride parade, no such partnership law proposals were ever submitted to the Faroese parliament.[2]

A set of bills to extend Danish same-sex marriage legislation to the Faroe Islands was submitted to the Løgting on 20 November 2013. These bills only included the provision for same-sex couples to have a legally valid civil wedding. If approved, they would have entered into force on 1 April 2014.[3][4][5] The bills were rejected at the second reading on 13 March 2014.[6][7][8][9]

On 24 September 2015, independent member Sonja Jógvansdóttir, along with Republic member Bjørt Samuelsen, Social Democratic member Kristianna Winther Poulsen and Progress member Hanna Jensen submitted a same-sex marriage proposal identical to the 2013 bill to the Parliament Secretariat. The bill was originally expected to come before Parliament in October 2015.[10] On 8 October 2015, Faroese news portal asked Løgting Director Jonhard Klettheyggj when the bill would be processed. Klettheyggj responded that such a procedure was far from simple, and that preparations were not yet complete because the proposal suggested that Danish authorities should change a Danish law, not a common practice for Løgting members. Not only were such proposals rare, they were usually made by a government minister. The bill entered Parliament on 17 November 2015. If approved, the law would be scheduled to go into effect on 1 July 2016.[11][12] The first reading of the bill was held on 24 November 2015.[13]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Denmark's prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation came into force in 1987. The Faroese parliament proposed a similar bill in 1988, but the bill was rejected with only one member voting for and 17 voting against.[14] The bill was not proposed again until November 2005, when it was again rejected by a vote of 20 to 12 (with 1 abstention). The members who voted against it claimed that since "homosexuality goes against the Bible," discrimination against a person on that basis should be lawful. Numerous insulting remarks were also made by Faroese MPs, including the equating of LGBT people with sinners and pedophiles.[2][15] The vote attracted the criticism of an Icelandic MP.[16]

Despite the legislative attempts, laws protecting sexual minorities did not become a source of public debate until 2006, when openly gay musician and popular radio host Rasmus Rasmussen was assaulted by five men in Tórshavn.[17][18] Rasmussen's family members then began receiving threatening phone calls. However, the police refused to handle the case because there was no Faroese law banning discrimination against sexual minorities at the time. An internet petition collected 20,000 signatures from different parts of world urging the Faroese parliament to legislate against discrimination based on sexual orientation.[19] At the time, a poll conducted by Faroese newspaper Sosialurin showed that if a referendum were held on the inclusion of the words "sexual orientation" in the islands' anti-discrimination law, only 39.1% would vote yes, while 49.7% would vote no and the rest were neutral or would not state their opinion.[20]

On 15 December 2006, in a 17–15 vote, Faroese legislators approved the inclusion of the words "sexual orientation" in anti-discrimination law § 266B. § 266B states that "whoever publicly or with the intention of dissemination to a wider circle makes a statement or other communication by which a group of persons are threatened, insulted or degraded on account of their race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation is liable to pay a fine or be imprisoned for up to two years."[21][22] When the law took effect on 1 January 2007, the Faroe Islands became the last Northern European country to ban discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation.

Living conditions[edit]

Prior to 2012, LGBT rights was not a high-profile issue in the Faroe Islands.

The Faroe Islands had been viewed by neighboring countries and worldwide media as a homophobic country for a long time. Generally, this was because religious observance is stronger and more widespread in the Faroe Islands than any other Nordic country,[23] and due to the lack of gay rights, such as recognition of same-sex unions, particularly when compared with other Nordic countries. Both factors created a perception that Faroese people were intolerant of LGBT individuals. In the past, the demonization of LGBT people as "monsters" or "freaks" by Faroese churches or religious leaders was quite common,[2] and until recently there was limited knowledge or discussion of LGBT people and their rights, leading many Faroese LGBT people to remain in the closet for decades out of fear of discrimination. There were also cases of Faroese LGBT people rejected by family or friends, and of LGBT people being forced to take refuge in other Nordic countries to escape discrimination or have their rights recognized. Some living overseas even refused to return to the Faroe Islands.[15][24] There were also a number of high-profile homophobic incidents widely reported in the Scandinavian press.

High-profile homophobic incidents[edit]

  • The first gay pride march in the islands in 2005 provoked much controversy and criticism.[25]
  • In 2005, the members of Great Garlic Girls, a group of Norwegian males who perform in drag, had to run for their lives when a gang of young men, intent on physically assaulting them, chased them down a street in Tórshavn during their performance. Nowhere else had the group been physically attacked.[2]
  • In 2006, Rasmus Rasmussen, a popular and respected Faroese singer, songwriter, guitarist, and radio host was severely beaten by five men in Tórshavn and hospitalised, shortly after he publicly came out. He was later moved to a psychiatric hospital, suffering from deep depression allegedly exacerbated by the beating. Following media reports of the attack, he and his family received threatening telephone calls.[2] In an interview with Danish media in December 2006, Rasmussen said that after publicly announcing he was gay, he grew tired of condescending glances and mocking comments from Faroese society.
  • In November 2006, conservative politician Óli Breckmann told the Danish media that "accepting gay rights in the Faroe Islands would pervert the entire generation... I'm afraid that after passing the proposal [to include the words "sexual orientation" into § 266B], politicians will advocate for the need to protect pedophiles." Faroese Prime Minister Jóannes Eidesgaard expressed shock that "[Breckmann] was comparing homosexuals to a criminal group [pedophiles]." John Johannesen from the Social Democratic Party demanded that Breckmann take back his words. Union Party chairperson Kaj Leo Johannesen criticized Breckmann for making frivolous statements and not showing the legislative proposal the respect it deserved. Even the membership of Breckmann's own People's Party did not defend his statement; chairperson Anfinn Kallsberg said that such statements "show the Faroe Islands in a bad light". And Amnesty International Faroe Islands chairperson Margretha Nónklett said that "these kinds of statements are harmful to the whole homosexual community. It shows how they are being demonized in the Faroe Islands"[26]
  • In 2010, Christian Centre Party MP Jenis av Rana declined a dinner invitation with Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, a married lesbian, explaining that he did so "because of the party's views against same-sex marriage." He provoked further controversy by claiming that the majority of Faroese people would agree with his statement.[16] This incident was widely reported in the Scandinavian press and earned him much criticism, particularly from the Faroese, because of the potentially damaging nature of his actions to diplomatic relations between Iceland and the Faroe Islands.[27]
  • In June 2015, Løgting Speaker Jógvan á Lakjuni wrote a letter to the editor titled "Hvar eru vit á veg?" ("Where are we heading?").[28] Jógvan á Lakjuni wrote that "we can see how selective [national broadcasting company] Kringvarp Føroya is - i.e., how much space the LGBT and its president get - while others, who try to speak against them, are ridiculed and ignored! And then there is the Nordic House in Tórshavn, which now just before the Ólavsøka, our Christian national holiday, will have a so-called "dragshow", where the homo-organization also plays a major role. What is this? Do these people not feel any shame at all, dragging such non-culture into the Nordic House?"[29]
Eiler Fagraklett in 2015.
  • In August 2015, one of the themes that garnered a relatively high amount of attention in that year's general election campaign was same-sex marriage. The Centre Party quoted God and the Bible on several occasions. On 29 August 2015, there was an open air prayer meeting in front of the parliament for people to pray for the election, and for marriage between one man and one woman, because organizers felt the Christian foundation of Faroese society was being threatened.[30] Four members of different Christian congregations sent out an appeal to the public to gather on the Tinghúsvøllur in front of Parliament and pray.[31][32] Centre Party leader Jenis av Rana compared the LGBT Føroyar organization with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which ran a campaign against pilot whale hunting in the Faroe Islands in 2014 and 2015. Jenis av Rana claimed that both LGBT Føroyar and Sea Shepherd were threats from abroad against Faroese society, but that he considered LGBT Føroyar to be a worse threat, because the Sea Shepherd Society was only present for the summer while LGBT Føroyar was in the Faroe Islands all year long and represented a far bigger threat to Christian values. Jenis av Rana repeated much the same thing in July 2015, suggesting that the Pride parade held in the center of Tórshavn just before the Ólavsøka national holiday should be moved to Hoyvík, outside of Tórshavn, just as had been done with whaling protesters in 2014.[33] Eiler Fagraklett, a spokesperson for LGBT Føroyar, responded on Facebook that he was deeply hurt by the discussion about Faroese marriage law, and especially by the description by many Faroese during the electoral campaign of gay people as big sinners. Fagraklett also pointed out that the prime minister, the speaker of the Løgting, the mayor of Tórshavn, three priests, and 800 others had participated in the prayer meeting in front of parliament to pray for the election of those who were against gay marriage, among other things.[34]

Recent developments[edit]

Later developments suggested that the Faroe Islands were becoming more liberal, partly due to the outlawing of discrimination towards LGBT people, which in turn encouraged many to come out publicly.[24] Various LGBT exhibitions on the islands such as "Hvat er natúrligt?"[35] and "Gay Greenland"[36] also helped increase public support for the LGBT community.

In addition, the Faroese LGBT population received support from well-known Faroese figures such as singer-songwriter Eivør Pálsdóttir, who defended gay people in an interview with Icelandic media, saying that those with narrow-minded opinions on gays and transgender people should be ignored.[37] [38]

Furthermore, different polls showed that the general public was becoming more liberal towards LGBT rights. A May 2013 Gallup survey found that 68% of Faroese people supported same-sex civil marriage (not religious marriages), 27% were against and 5% undecided, with supporters outnumbering opponents in every age group.[2][39][40] Another poll conducted in August 2014 found that out of 600 respondents, 61% supported same-sex marriage, 32% opposed it, while the rest were undecided.[41]

A poll conducted in May 2014 found that regional divisions were significant in attitudes towards same-sex marriage, despite its overall results being similar to other polls (62% support, 28% opposition, 10% undecided): respondents in Norðoyar and Eysturoy showed 42% and 48% support, respectively, and were less likely to support same-sex marriage than those in Suðurstreymoy, for example, which is near the capital and which showed 76% support.[42]

And despite recent liberalization of attitudes towards LGBT people, limitations on their living conditions remain. Signs of a visible gay scene in the Faroe Islands are very limited. Furthermore, most of the members of parliament and government officials still hold homophobic attitudes or use religious reasoning to criticize LGBT people and block moves towards increased LGBT rights.[43] The country scored very low in the "Rainbow Map Europe 2013".[44][45]

Sonja Jógvansdóttir became the first gay person to be elected to the Faroese parliament after the September 2015 general election. She received 1,020 votes, making her the third-most popular Faroese politician. She is now fighting for the legalization of same-sex marriage.[46] On 18 September 2015, the Sosialurin newspaper asked members of Parliament how they would vote on a same-sex marriage bill. Sixteen said they were in favor, eleven said they were opposed, and six gave no opinion or answer.[47]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1933)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1988)
Anti-discrimination laws in hate crime and hate speech Yes (Since 2007)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Same-sex marriage(s) No (Pending)[48]
Recognition of same-sex couples No (Pending)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No (Pending)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No (Pending)
Gays allowed to serve in the military Yes (Denmark responsible for defence. Since 1978)
Right to change legal gender No[49]
Access to IVF for lesbians No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No[50]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Faroe Pride
  2. ^ a b c d e f
  3. ^ (Faroese) 51/2013 Uppskot til ríkislógartilmæli um at seta í gildi fyri Føroyar partar av broytingum í hjúnabandslógini og rættarvirknaðarlógini við tilhoyrandi skjølum
  4. ^ (Faroese) 52/2013 Uppskot til ríkislógartilmæli um broyting í rættargangslógini fyri Føroyar
  5. ^ (Faroese) 53/2013 Uppskot til ríkislógartilmæli um broyting í “Anordning om ikrafttræden for Færøerne af lov om ægteskabs indgåelse og opløsning”
  6. ^ Faroe Islands: Equal marriage bill voted down
  7. ^ (Faroese) Løgtingssetan 2013 Mál: 51 Viðgerð: 2
  8. ^ (Faroese) Løgtingssetan 2013 Mál: 52 Viðgerð: 2
  9. ^ (Faroese) Løgtingssetan 2013 Mál: 53 Viðgerð: 2
  10. ^ Uppskot at broyta hjúnabandslógina latið tinginum
  11. ^ (Faroese) 19/2015 Uppskot til rikislógartilmæli um at seta í gildi fyri Føroyar partar av broytingum í hjúnabandslógini og rættarvirknaðarlógini
  12. ^ (Faroese) Hjúnarbandslógin løgd fyri tingið
  13. ^ (Faroese) Dagsskráin 2015 - Týsdagur, 24. November 2015, kl. 10:00
  14. ^ Being the ‘Other’ from the Faroe Islands
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ a b Faroe Islands MP refuses to dine with Iceland’s gay prime minister and her partner
  17. ^ Norden: Minister to explain Faroese gay policy
  18. ^ [DR2 Tema: De sidste bøsser på Færøerne]
  19. ^ Homophobia "perfectly legal" in Faroe Islands
  20. ^ "Poll: Faroese voters are more divided than the MPs on whether homosexuals should be protected by the Faroese Criminal Code § 266B. (In Danish only)". 
  21. ^ Island Chain Votes To Ban Discrimination Against Gays
  22. ^ §266b
  23. ^ Faroese religion
  24. ^ a b
  25. ^
  26. ^ (in Danish)  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^
  28. ^ Lakjuni, Jógvan á (10 June 2015). "Hvar eru vit á veg?" (in Faroese). (Sosialurin). Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  29. ^ Lakjuni, Jógvan á (11 June 2015). "HVAR ERU VIT Á VEG?" (in Faroese). Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  30. ^ Hentze, Bergljót; Mohr, Bjarni (25 August 2015). "Biðja fyri løgtingsvalinum" (in Faroese). Kringvarp Føroya. Retrieved 1 September 2015.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  31. ^ Eidesgaard, Marin (26 August 2015). "Prestar fara at biðja fyri valinum og hjúnabandinum" (in Faroese). Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  32. ^ Nielsen, Jóanis (29 August 2015). "Nógv fólk til bønarátak á Tinghúsvøllinum - myndir" (in Faroese). Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  33. ^ Bertholdsen, Áki (6 July 2015). "Samkynd skrúðgonga á ólavsøku skal bannast" (in Faroese). Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  34. ^ Midjord, Høgni (30 September 2015). "Eiler Fagraklett - Kjakið um samkynd særir meg djúpt" (in Faroese). Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ Poll: 68% approve of equal marriage in the Faroe Islands
  40. ^ Large majority agrees with civil marriage for homosexuals
  41. ^ Faroe Islands poll: 61% support same-sex marriage
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^ 16 members of parliament in favor of gay marriage
  48. ^ 19/2015 Uppskot til rikislógartilmæli um at seta í gildi fyri Føroyar partar av broytingum í hjúnabandslógini og rættarvirknaðarlógini
  49. ^
  50. ^ "Vantandi rættindi og mismunur". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 

External links[edit]