Flemish ombudsman to become “gender police”

Summary

The government of Flanders has tasked the region’s ombudsman with handling complaints of all kinds of gender discrimination and proposing solutions for certain cases

Toilets for transgendered people

The Flemish parliament has approved a new role for the Flemish ombudsman, Bart Weekers: He is head of the new “gender police” tasked with handling complaints of gender-related discrimination.

The European Union introduced a rule that obliges all member states to set up committees to monitor and promote equal treatment. The federal government body is the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men; Flanders had no corresponding body.

“By increasing the scope of the Flemish ombudsman, we are meeting the demands of Europe,” said Matthias Diependaele (N-VA), who proposed the resolution. “As of now, anyone with a gender-related complaint can report directly to the ombudsman as an independent party.”

In practice, the office will handle any complaint relating to gender, gender identity or gender expression: a woman who is dismissed for being pregnant, for instance, or gay or transgendered people who are discriminated against on the housing market.

Weekers has handled gender matters in the past, he told De Standaard, as part of his responsibilities. In addition to handling complaints, his office will also carry out research into gender discrimination. “We will work on a better way to register these complaints,” he said. “It’s not enough to note that a bus drove past a stop where two gay men were waiting [referring to a recent case]. You have to know why that happened and try to do something, like training of bus drivers, to prevent it happening again." 

In related news, the Flemish government said it intended to install gender-neutral toilets in its office buildings to allow transgendered people to use toilets without embarrassment. The doors of the toilets will sport a special logo (pictured) to show they can be used by anyone. 

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Government of Flanders

Belgium is a federal state with several regional governments. The northern, Dutch-speaking region of Flanders is governed by the Flemish government, which was created when the Flemish Region and the Flemish Community joined forces in 1980. A minister-president presides over the government of Flanders, and Brussels is the capital city.
Competences - The government of Flanders is responsible for the economy, foreign trade, health care, energy, housing, agriculture, environmental concerns, public works and transport, employment policy, culture, education and science and innovation. Flanders also has the power to sign international treaties in these competencies.
Sole legislator - The powers of the Flemish government and of the federal government do not overlap. Therefore, only one government serves as legislator for each policy area. Flemish laws are called decrees. Decrees apply in co-ordination with federal laws.
Official holiday - 11 July is the official holiday of the Flemish Community, in commemoration of the Battle of the Golden Spurs in Kortrijk on 11 July 1302, when Flemings defeated the army of the French king. Flanders’ official anthem is “De Vlaamse Leeuw” (The Flemish Lion).
6

million people live in the Flemish Region.

5

provinces constitute the Flemish Region: West Flanders, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Antwerp and Limburg.

5

number of years for which the Flemish Parliament is elected. Its elections coincide with those of the European Parliament.