LGBT rights in Belgium

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LGBT rights in Belgium
Location of  Belgium  (dark green)– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]
Location of  Belgium  (dark green)

– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1795,
equal age of consent
Gender identity/expression Transsexual persons allowed to change legal gender under certain conditions (since 2007)
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation and gender identity protections (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
relationships
Same-sex marriage (since 2003)
Adoption Same-sex couples have equal adoption rights as opposite-sex couples (since 2006)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights in Belgium have been seen as some of the most progressive in Europe[1] and in the world. Same-sex sexual activity was legalized in 1795 and the age of consent was equalized in 1985. After granting same-sex couples domestic partnership benefits in 2000, Belgium became the second country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003. Same-sex adoption was completely legalized in 2006 and is equalized with that of opposite-sex adoption. Lesbian couples can get access to IVF as well. Discrimination protections based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public and private accommodations have also been enacted since 2003. Transsexuals have been allowed to change their legal gender under certain circumstances since 2007.

Belgium has frequently been officially referred to as one of the most gay friendly countries in the world,[2] with recent polls indicating that a majority of Belgians support same-sex marriage and adoption. In reality society and also justice can react very homophobic in normally conservative Belgium. The Prime Minister of Belgium, Elio Di Rupo, is an openly gay man and is one of the only two Prime Ministers in the world to identify as LGBT. Pascal Smet, the former Flemish Minister of Education (in the Peeters II Government), is also openly gay.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1795 (when the country was a French possession).[3] Article 372 of the Penal Code sets the age of consent to 16, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender. This was briefly increased to 18 for same-sex sexual activity in 1965 by the addition of article 372bis to the Penal Code, which was repealed in 1985.[4]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Belgium became the second country to allow same-sex marriages in 2003 (after the Netherlands).[5] Same-sex couples have the same rights as opposite-sex couples.

Adoption and family planning[edit]

See also: LGBT parenting

Same-sex couples have had the same rights as opposite-sex couples in adopting children since 2006.[6] Also, lesbian couples can get access to IVF as well.

Military service[edit]

LGBT people are not banned from military service.

Discrimination protections and hate crimes[edit]

The anti-discrimination law of 25 February 2003[7] included discrimination protections on the basis of sex and sexual orientation. The law was replaced by a similar law in 2007.[8]

The 2003 and 2007 anti-discrimination laws also establish a penalty-enhancement for crimes motivated by hate on the basis of, among others, sex and sexual orientation.

On 29 November 2013, the Federal Government approved an expansion of the anti-discrimination law to include gender identity and gender expression. It was approved by the Federal Parliament and received Royal Assent on 22 May 2014.[9][10][11]

Transgender rights[edit]

The 2007 law concerning transsexuality[12] grants Belgians the right to change their legal gender, under the conditions that the person has a "constant and irreversible inner conviction to belong to the sex opposite to that mentioned in the birth certificate" and that "the physical body is adapted to the opposite sex as far as possible and justified from a medical point of view". This means sterilization is required.

Previously a gender change was only possible through a court judgment.

Among Belgian hospitals or even internationally, the Ghent University Hospital (UZ Gent) is known for its specialisation in sex reassignment surgery. For example, many French transgenders go there due to a lack of accepting hospitals in France.[13]

Living conditions[edit]

LGBT people are generally well socially accepted in Belgium. There is a strong gay community, with numerous gay clubs. A European Union member poll showed 62% of Belgians support same-sex marriage extension to the whole Europe.[14]

Politics[edit]

LGBT rights are generally supported by the government and the main political parties, with the exception of the far-right Flemish Interest (Vlaams Belang, formerly Flemish Block). When voting on the same-sex marriage bill, the Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD), Christian People's Party (CVP/CD&V), (Francophone) Socialist Party (PS), (Flemish) Socialist Party (sp.a), Ecolo, Agalev and the People's Union voted generally in favour except for several abstentions, whereas the Flemish Block and National Front voted against, the Christian Social Party (CSP/cdH) voted against with several abstentions and the Reformist Movement (MR) voted dividedly.

Several politicians are openly gay, two notable examples being the Prime Minister of Belgium, Elio Di Rupo (PS) and the former Flemish Minister for Education (in the Peeters II Government), Pascal Smet[15] (sp.a). LGBT members of the Flemish Parliament are, among others, Piet De Bruyn (N-VA), Lorin Parys (N-VA) and Wellen mayor Els Robeyns (sp.a).

On 2 April 2014, the Flemish Parliament approved 96–0 (with 15 abstentions) a resolution introduced by MP Piet De Bruyn (N-VA) and supported by all political parties except Flemish Interest, calling for the government to take measures to support and advance the acceptance of transgenders in society.[16]

In the 2014 European Parliament election, UZ Gent gynaecologist Petra De Sutter was second on the list of Green, marking the first time a Belgian transgender was a candidate for parliament.[17]

LGBT rights movement in Belgium[edit]

Belgian gay rights activists are grouped into several organisations. Several of these are part of Çavaria and Wel Jong Niet Hetero (Dutch for 'Young But Not Straight'), two associations of Dutch-speaking GLBT organisations in the Flemish and Brussels regions of Belgium. The French-speaking counterpart in the Walloon and Brussels regions is the Federation des Associations Gayes et Lesbiennes.

Belgian gay rights activism is made most visible by means of the BLGP "Belgium Lesbian and Gay Pride" demonstration marches. The marches are held annually in Belgium's capital Brussels since 1996, with similar events having been held intermittently in preceding years in both Brussels and other cities. While the marches have a festive character, they are also used to present the gay movement's political agenda in the form of a list of demands. The list was updated a number of times (in 1996, 1999, 2000, 2004 and 2005) and has included demands for anti-discimination laws, inclusion of gay relationships in high-school sex education and the right to adoption by same-sex parents.

Many of the activist's demands, including the more prominent ones such as recognition of same-sex marriage and adoption rights, have been met over the years, leading some to wonder whether the marches had become obsolete. They point out that this was reflected in dwindling participant numbers for the 2007 march, although the organisers contest that the number of participants actually declined. Others attribute any such decline to simply bad weather and the event not being as attractive as the gay pride marches in neighbouring countries. The 2007 event nevertheless still had a list of 17 demands to march for. Still, it can be taken as a sign of the almost complete equalisation of gay and straight rights in Belgium that the primary demand was a call to Belgian politicians to play a prominent role in establishing similar rights at the level of the European Union. Several members of almost all political parties also walked in the 2007 march and earlier marches, with the notable exception of the extreme-right wing party Vlaams Belang.

In the 2007 march, some participants were seen with a banner "Thank you Verhofstadt!", in reference to the fact that many gay rights such as same-sex marriage in Belgium were realised by the first two governments of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt (Open VLD), which respectively consisted of liberals, socialists and greens, and of liberals and socialists.

Prior to 1998, the marches were held under the name "Roze Zaterdag – Samedi Rose" ("Pink Saturday"). The name was adopted for the first ever Belgian demonstration march for gay rights in 1979, taken from the same-named series of Dutch marches which were first held the year before. The 1979 march was organised on 5 May in Brussels, with subsequent marches the next two years in respectively Antwerp and Brussels again. After this first short series of annual events, it was only in 1990 that the decision was made to again organise the marches regularly, starting anew on 5 May in Antwerp and then bi-annually in Ghent and again in Antwerp. The latter choice of city was motivated by what is known as "Black Sunday", when the extreme right-wing party Vlaams Blok (now Vlaams Belang) scored a major electoral victory in Antwerp. Then in 1996, "Pink Saturday" was moved indefinitely to Brussels, and became an annual event. The next year, the list of demands was for the first time prominently displayed on 10 large banners carried by participants throughout the march. Finally, in 1998, the name of the march was changed to Belgian Lesbian and Gay Pride.

In 2013, Antwerp was the host city of the third World Outgames.

Blood donation[edit]

Currently, males having sex with other men can't donate blood to maximise the security of blood transfusion.[18]

The gay male blood donor controversy is a political issue, shared by political parties, health representatives and LGBT associations.[19][20][21][22]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (since 1795)
Equal age of consent Yes (except between 1965–1985)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (since 2003)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (since 2003)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (since 2003)
Same-sex marriage Yes (since 1 June 2003)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (since 1 January 2000)
Both joint and step parent adoption by same-sex couples Yes (since 30 June 2006)
Gays allowed to serve in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes (since 1 September 2007)
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
Automatic parenthood for both spouses after birth Yes (since 6 May 2014)
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (not explicitly regulated by law)
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.ilga-europe.org/home/publications/reports_and_other_materials/rainbow_europe
  2. ^ http://www.businessinsider.com/worlds-most-gay-friendly-countries-2013-3?op=1
  3. ^ State-sponsored Homophobia A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults
  4. ^ (Dutch) (French) Strafwetboek / Code pénal
  5. ^ Major legal consequences of marriage, cohabitation and registered partnership for different-sex and same-sex partners in Belgium
  6. ^ Belgium passes gay adoption law
  7. ^ 25 FEBRUARI 2003. - Wet ter bestrijding van discriminatie (...) / 25 FEVRIER 2003. - Loi tendant à lutter contre la discrimination (...)
  8. ^ Wet van 10 mei 2007 ter bestrijding van bepaalde vormen van discriminatie / Loi de 10 mai 2007 tendant à lutter contre certaines formes de discrimination
  9. ^ "Federale regering breidt antidiscriminatiewet uit met genderidentiteit en -expressie". ZIZO-Online. 29 November 2013. 
  10. ^ "Betere bescherming dankzij uitbreiding discriminatiewet naar genderidentiteit en genderexpressie". Federal Public Service Justice. 29 November 2013. 
  11. ^ Wetsontwerp tot wijziging van de wet van 10 mei 2007 ter bestrijding van discriminatie tussen vrouwen en mannen met het oog op de uitbreiding ervan naar genderidentiteit en genderexpressie, Senate
  12. ^ (Dutch) Wet van 10 mei 2007 betreffende de transseksualiteit; (French) Loi du 10 mai 2007 relative à la transsexualité
  13. ^ "Française Chloë wil in Gent geslachtsoperatie ondergaan". deredactie.be. 14 July 2014. 
  14. ^ Europe Split On Gay Marriage
  15. ^ (Dutch) Vlaams minister van onderwijs Pascal Smet out zich als homo
  16. ^ Voorstel van resolutie betreffende de algemene maatschappelijke aanvaarding en gelijkschakeling van transgenders, Flemish Parliament
  17. ^ "Petra De Sutter op tweede plaats Europese lijst Groen". Het Laatste Nieuws. 25 February 2014. 
  18. ^ "Avis du CSH relatif a` la sécurisation maximale de la collecte et de la transfusion sanguine (CSH 8094)." (PDF) (in French). Brussels: FPS Health Belgium. 2005-02-18. Archived from the original on 2011-04-20. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  19. ^ "La lutte contre l'interdiction du don de sang par les homosexuels - FDF". FDF. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  20. ^ "Don de sang : les homos toujours à l'index". Arc-en-ciel Wallonnie. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  21. ^ "Don de sang impossible pour les homosexuels: Ecolo demande à Onkelinx d'agir". La Libre Belgique. 3 September 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  22. ^ Genot, Zoé (May 2013). "Homo/Don de sang : Onkelinx reconnait que le dossier avance lentement... !". Retrieved 28 December 2013. 

External links[edit]