Updated: 02/21/2014 03:16 | By Agence France-Presse

New Zealand tops gay inclusion in the army

New Zealand's armed forces came out tops in rankings of countries with the highest inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexuals and transgender soldiers, while Nigeria scored lowest, said a study released on Thursday.

New Zealand tops gay inclusion in the army

New Zealand soldiers stand at attention during the National ANZAC Day Commemorative Service at the National War Memorial Park in Wellington on April 25, 2012 - by Marty Melville

The LGBT Military Index is the first ranking that uses metrics such as admittance, tolerance, exclusion or persecution of homosexuals to measure 103 armies worldwide, the Hague-based Centre for Strategic Studies think-tank said.

It looked at how well homosexuals are incorporated in the armed forces -- including whether they received the same benefits as heterosexuals, whether they have support or whether they had to hide their sexuality. 

In second place was the Netherlands which for instance boasts the world's first organisation, established in 1987, to support homosexuals in the military, the study said.

The Dutch threw open its doors to gays some 40 years ago, it pointed out.

Accepting homosexuals in the military "is not so much just a matter of human rights," Dutch army colonel Dirk Jan Broks told AFP at the study's release.

"It's also about work quality. If a person is gay and not having to hide it they can concentrate on other things without worrying about being discriminated against," he said.

Britain, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Denmark and Belgium followed behind the Netherlands.

In ninth place lies Israel's armed forces which opened its doors to gays in the early 1990s and where military benefits for same-sex couples exceeded civilian recognition.

The United States ended only 40th in the rankings below countries such as Argentina, Chile, Cuba and Estonia.

US President Barack Obama in 2011 repealed the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy which forced gay soldiers to hide their sexuality.

Despite the end of the policy against same-sex soldiers, the Department of Defence still treated "transgender people as mentally ill and systematically root them out for discharge," the report said.

Bottom of the list, seven of 10 countries are from Africa, including Uganda, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Nigeria, who is ranked last ahead of Syria and Iran.

Uganda this week pushed through tough anti-homosexuality laws which will see gays jailed for life, a move strongly criticised by Obama, who called it a "step backward" that would complicate ties with Kampala.

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