Annual Review 2011
Bias motivated violence
- There were regular media reports of physical and verbal violence against LGB people; however, it remained unclear whether there was a rise in incidents or whether victims had become more willing to report this type of violence. Examples include: (i) a lesbian couple who were attacked whilst walking through the streets of Brussels holding hands (one of the women needing medical attention as a result of her injuries); (ii) a gay man beaten by a group of people when passing by a takeaway in Brussels. After being attacked by customers outside, he ran inside the takeaway asking for help and was attacked again by the people inside. The owner called the police; (iii) in November, an attack took place in one of Brussels main LGBTI meeting cafés. Three drunk men entered the café, began shouting homophobic abuse at the people inside, and before long a violent altercation ensued; (iv) a man was beaten by a group of young men near the Stock Exchange in Brussels, just next to Grand Place (main square), because he was gay and supposedly behaving in an effeminate manner.
- In reaction to these incidents, a kiss-in was organised on the Grand Place to send a strong but peaceful signal against homophobia and transphobia.
Equality and non- discrimination
- In 2011, Belgium was reviewed during the UN Universal Periodic Review process and accepted recommendations to eliminate prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by taking all appropriate action, including training and education programmes. It also accepted a recommendation to protect gender identity and expression under anti-discriminatory laws and policies.
- Several propositions for a resolution were placed before the Belgian Federal Parliament to offi cially recognise the Yogyakarta Principles on discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The proposal is pending before the Belgian Parliament.
- In May, representatives of the national Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism participated in Belgian Pride covered in Post-its as part of an awareness raising campaign entitled Sick of being labelled? which reminded and encouraged LGB people to report any discrimination and violence they suff ered. They also ran a video campaign and encouraged people to use their reporting website. The Centre ran the campaign to try and overcome what it perceived as under reporting of discrimination and violence by the LGB community, whether it be to the Centre or to the police.
- In December, the coalition agreement of the Belgian Federal Government was concluded and included a number of specifi c actions related to LGBT people. These include: (i) to take measures to reduce violence against LGBT people; (ii) to address the inequalities related to LGBT parenthood; (iii) to review the current law on transsexuality; and (iv) to play a leading role at the international level with regard to equality for LGBT people.
- At the beginning of the year, a toddler of a gay couple from Belgium (born of a surrogate mother in Ukraine), was reunited with his fathers in Belgium more than two years after his birth. The child had spent some time with a foster family and then time in an orphanage due to the refusal of the Belgian authorities to issue him a passport. Following a decision by a Belgian Court, media coverage and a campaign to pressure the government not to appeal the Court’s decision, a passport was fi nally issued. In Belgium, there are three hurdles regarding children of gay men who have recourse to a surrogate mother: (i) the Belgian consulate or embassy of the country where the child is born may refuse to issue a Belgian passport and as a result the child cannot be taken to Belgium; (ii) the child is allowed to be taken to Belgium but the local authorities may refuse to recognise the birth certifi cate and thus the child cannot be registered on the Belgian register of civil status; and (iii) there is no clear policy or law on surrogacy and thus decisions are taken on ad hoc basis.
- The Ethics Committee of the University Hospital of Gent agreed in principle to allow non-commercial surrogacy for same-sex couples.
Police and law enforcement
- In April, the Brussels Regional Government launched a campaign developed in cooperation with the Brussels Police and various LGBT NGOs to raise awareness and encourage LGBT people to report aggression and violence suff ered because of sexual orientation or gender identity. They developed a website which provides help and advice to victims of violence, whether it be verbal, physical, sexual, or psychological violence. It explains the steps a victim or witness should take after an attack, provides contact details of diff erent services and explains what the person needs to do and what each service can provide