Belgium number two in Europe for LGBT+ quality of life


Despite a drop of six percentage points, Belgium hangs on to its second-place finish on Ilga Europe’s annual Rainbow Index

Leading Western Europe

Friday is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and Ilga Europe has published its new Rainbow Index. Belgium repeats its performance as the second-best place out of 49 European countries for quality of life for the LGBT+ community.

Malta again came in first this year, with a 90% rating. Ilga, a Brussels-based lobbying and advocacy group, bases its index on the countries’ policies on six general issues: Equality and non-discrimination, family, hate crimes and speech, legal gender recognition and bodily integrity, civil society space and asylum.

Issues are weighted, with equality and non-discrimination getting the most weight. While Belgium came in second, its 73% lags way behind Malta’s 90%. In fact, Belgium lost several percentage points: Last year it got 79%.

According to Jeroen Borghs of Flemish gay rights organisation Cavaria, that’s largely to do with a lack of recognition for intersex people. Intersex people are born with variations in sex-determining characteristics that can include hormones, chromosomes or genitalia that do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies.

Dangerous surgeries

Sex-determining surgeries are routinely carried out on babies and young children without knowing how the child will develop. That practice has long been called into question by many medical professionals as well as the intersex community. Some countries – such as Malta – ban it until informed consent is possible.

Intersex people are not protected by Belgium’s anti-discrimination laws. “There is also not a ban in Belgium on unnecessary medical interventions,” Borghs told VRT. “Carrying out surgeries on babies and children to create bodies more in keeping with typical boys and girls when they are not old enough to give their consent is harmful to the development of the child – and a violation of human rights.”

Belgium also loses points on the lack of hate crime legislation for transsexual and intersex people and on forcing people to choose male or female on their ID cards. Still, a quick look at the Rainbow Map shows that Belgium is doing much better than neighbours Germany (47%), the Netherlands (50%) and France (63%). Luxembourg is in third place on the index with 70%.

If ever there was a time to put high political priority on LGBTI equality, it is now

- Ilga director Evelyne Paradis

Dead last is Azerbaijan at 3%. Turkey and Armenia also did badly, with 5% and 7% respectively. Russia is at 10%.

Belgium isn’t alone in its loss of percentage points. Several countries appear to be moving backwards when it comes to LGBT+ rights, according to Ilga. Poland, for instance, no longer provides single women access to medically assisted reproduction, while Bulgaria has removed all legal procedures for changing one’s name or gender on official documents.

“If ever there was a time to put high political priority on LGBTI equality, it is now,” said Ilga director Evelyne Paradis. “Last year we warned about the dangers of thinking that the work was done. Sadly, this year we see concrete evidence of roll-back at political and legislative levels in a growing number of countries. There is no more time to waste.”

This weekend is the annual Pride Parade in Brussels, with the Pride Village launching Friday and running to Sunday.

Photo: FG Trade/Getty Images