LGBT rights in Belgium

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LGBT rights in Belgium
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Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1795,
age of consent equalized in 1985
Gender identity/expression -
Recognition of
Same-sex marriage since 2003
Adoption Same-sex couples have equal adoption rights as opposite-sex couples
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protections (see below)

Belgium is considered to be a very liberal country in regards to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights and became the second country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, in 2003.

Former laws against homosexuality

In Belgium, there is no law against homosexuality and it has been legal since 1795 (when this country was a French possession). From 1965 the age of consent for homosexual acts was 18 (16 for heterosexual acts). The age of consent was equalized to 16, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender in 1985.

Gender identity/expression

Recognition of same-sex relationships

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

Adoption and family planning

Same-sex couples have the same rights as opposite-sex couples in adopting children.

Military service

Homosexuals are not banned from military service.

Discrimination protections

Laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation in several areas like employment, housing etc. went into force in 2003.

Living conditions

Belgium does generally well at tolerating and accepting gays. There exists a good gay scene, with several gay clubs. A European Union member poll showed 62% of Belgians support same sex marriage extension to the whole Europe. [1].

Several politicians are openly gay : the minister for education in the Flemish Community Pascal Smet[1] as well as Walloon majority leader Elio di Rupo, etc.

LGBT rights movement in Belgium

Belgian gay rights activists are grouped into several organisations. Several of these are part of the Holebifederatie, an association of Dutch-speaking GLB 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 Belgian 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. But 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 were realised by the first two governments of Prime Mininister 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 May 5 in Brussels, with subsequent marches the next two years in respectively Antwerp and Brussels again. After this first short series of annual events, it wasn't until 1990 that the decision was made to again organise the marches regularly, starting anew on May 5 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.

Summary table

Homosexuality legal Yes (since 1795)
Equal age of consent Yes (since 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(s) Yes (since 1 April 2003)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (since 1 January 2000)
Both joint and step adoption by same-sex couples Yes (since 2006)
Gays allowed to serve in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also


External links


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