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Brussels 21 May 2018
On Saturday 19 May 2018, the streets of Brussels are immersed in rainbow colours to celebrate the LGBTI community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex). More than 100,000 people came together to celebrate diversity and freedom of expression in a world where sexual orientation or gender expression can be the subject of discrimination, hatred or violence. Belgium, considered very liberal in its legislation towards the LGBTI community (same-sex marriage allowed since 2003 and adoption for same-sex couples since 2006), proudly achieves the second place in the Rainbow Index, an assessment of LGBTI rights around Europe. This progress is partly due to:
- A new law, passed in 2017 which relaxes the administrative procedure to change sex, which previously required compulsory sterilization and a heavy medical diagnosis. This new gender self-determination can now be obtained by a simple declaration brought to the civil registry.
- Belgium remains one of the most popular destinations for lesbian access to IVF (in vitro fertilisation). Belgian legislation allows the choice between anonymous or identified sperm donation and does not impose any condition of life as a couple for IVF.
- Hanne Gaby Odiele, a Belgian model, revealed last year that she was intersex. She has become an iconic figure and promotes the protection and autonomy of intersex people. ” I want to raise awareness and highlight the irreversible and unnecessary operations intersex people must endure as a child.”
However, Belgium’s score has decreased since 2016 (82% for 78.76% in 2018). This is partly due to:
- A lack in the Belgian constitution in terms of gender recognition and sexual orientation.
- A discriminative law towards homosexuals, which authorizes them to donate blood only after an abstinence of minimum 12 months, a law that targets the entire homosexual group and not a risky behaviour. This law is therefore deemed unfair by the Wallonia Rainbow Federation.
UNIA, the inter-federal centre for equal opportunities, points out a growing number of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The day after the Pride, three young people were attacked by a group of fifteen people. This homophobic assault was described as a “hate crime” and forwarded to the prosecution.
In 2017, 84 cases of discrimination or homophobic violence were opened in Belgium. UNIA, explains that sexual orientation comes first in the field of “Life in Society”. ” It shows a form of intolerance and emotional hostility, an almost instinctive rejection that translates into public space, sometimes in very violent ways. “. This alarming observation highlights the need to work for changing of mentality and open minding, in parallel with legislative demands.
UNIA, stresses that there therefore remains a need to introduce regulations that explicitly punish hate crimes motivated by bias based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender characteristics. According to ILGA, it is also necessary to include explicit references to sexual characteristics in anti-discrimination legislation.
This year, Pride is expressed under the slogan “Your Local Power! ». In the run-up local elections, the LGBT+ community wants to “encourage local administrations to pursue a local policy that explicitly promotes LGBTI+ integration: introduction of a diversity charter in sports clubs, provision of information on gender and sexuality in libraries, logistical and financial support for local associations, testimonies and training in community education, presentation of a queer film festival in regional cinemas or cultural centres. (…), LGBTI+ actions must be carried out in community centres and youth centres, victims or witnesses must be helped to react in the event of discrimination”. 2018 will see the opening of the first house for LGBT youth (between 18 and 25 years old) who “find themselves left to their own devices as a result of rejection or exclusion from their homes for reasons of gender or sexual orientation”. A project initiated by the non-profit association Midmino, which explains that “the Maison Arc-en-Ciel, which brings together all LGBT associations of Brussels, (…) receives every week young people who are experiencing a situation of exclusion from their family home”. When they find themselves on the street, these young people usually end up at a SAMU Social (a humanitarian emergency service providing care and medical aid to people in social distress) with nowhere to go. These temporary accommodations for a few weeks aim to accompany young persons in their reintegration and offer psychological, social (access to health care, job search, housing) and legal support when necessary.
Elsewhere in Europe:
It is important to recall that the European Union has formulated four guidelines for the protection of the LGBT+ community: 1) Decriminalisation and the fight against discriminatory laws and regulations 2) Promoting equality and non-discrimination 3) Combating violence and LGBTI-phobia 4) Supporting and protecting human rights for LGBT+ advocates.
According to the Rainbow Index, Malta now leads the ranking with a score of 90%. An impressive rise for the country which was at the bottom of the list in 2013. On the other hand, in Eastern Europe, such as in Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Poland, much progress still needs to be done at this level.
Personal data protection – Grindr
Grindr has become since its inception in 2009 the most coveted dating application for homosexuals and has now expanded to the entire LGBT+ community. However, it has recently been accused of having “allowed third-party companies to access its users’ private data, including their HIV status”. These third companies, Apptimize and Localytics, were in charge of testing the application, and would thus have received users’ data from Grindr. Scott Chen, Grindr chief technology officer, says that the application ” has never sold and will never sell personally identifiable information (…) to third parties or advertisers”. However, he reminds that “users have the choice or not to share their HIV status, and it is therefore up to them to be vigilant”.
 European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights