Decryption – Are the rights of LGBTQIA+ persons guaranteed in Belgium? “There is a gap between politics and society”

Although Belgium scores well overall, our country falls in the European rankings for LGBTQIA+ rights compared to the European average. Every year, ILGA-Europe, the umbrella organization of European LGBTI+ associations, presents its “Rainbow map“To gauge the situation in Europe.

49 European countries receive a score of 100 on the rights of LGBTQIA+ people. In 2023, Belgium was in the middle Second placeThis year, our country is falling Third place with 78 points.

Malta has topped the list for the ninth consecutive year. With 83 points, Iceland moves up three places to second place thanks to its new legislation.

The three countries at the bottom of the rainbow map are Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

You should also see the glass as half full and half empty.

For Jean-François Cannoot, coordinator of Rainbow House (a coalition of French- and Dutch-speaking LGBTQIA associations), these classifications need to be nuanced: “We must ask ourselves: Who is the pioneer? These are political groups that can vote for same-sex adoption or even marriage. But when we analyze population, it is not the same. There is a growing gap between political progress and the mood of Belgian society.

Despite its ranking, Belgium is considered a liberal country regarding the rights of LGBTQIA+ people and continues to make progress in many areas. Our country recently banned conversion practices. These are treatments aimed at changing the sexual orientation of LGBTQIA+ people. Belgium’s new law provides for making this a criminal offence.

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For Jean-François Cannoot, coordinator of Rainbow House (a coalition of French- and Dutch-speaking LGBTQIA associations), other challenges loom in the coming years: “A ban on homophobic comments should be explicitly included in the constitution, with particular focus on online discrimination. The expression of hate online is more complex. Racism and racism-related issues are recognized as press crimes and cannot be brought before a criminal court. Racist or sexist comments may be subject to criminal action. On the other hand, for anything related to homosexuality, it is considered a press offense and therefore subject to treatment and a very long process. This difference is already discrimination.

Another issue is litigation Non-binary and transgender: “Today, if we can consider that gays and lesbians, both civil and family, have equal rights for transgender people, this is not the case at all. In our country, there is a law that defines medical and psychiatric procedures or change of marital status for persons with disabilities. But there are many gray areas, for example, intersex people who are unwilling or unable to choose. While other countries have made great strides in terms of individual, civil and social rights for all these people, we still have a way to go.” In fact, some countries like Cuba or Nepal accept the concept of “3rd gender” in civil status documents.

Yes, you can be a boy, wear nail polish, and wear skirts

However, the legislative side does not solve everything: “There is also prevention and education, especially among young people. We need to normalize different gender expressions and relationships. For now there is progress but it is not enough. We saw that EVRAS (Education for Relationship, Emotional and Sexual Life) is still reluctant to address these dimensions. To progress, we must allow the youth to participate in the evolution of society. Yes, you can be a boy, wear nail polish, and wear skirts. We need to completely move away from the binary structure that many people don’t find themselves in. We should allow different identities to express themselves freely..

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