Belgium celebrates IDAHOT and rises in support of defending and promoting the human rights of LGBTQI+ people
Since 2004, May 17 marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). This date was chosen to commemorate the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO), on May 17, 1990, to no longer consider homosexuality as a mental illness.
Belgium, whose legislation and policy in this matter are described as progressive, continues to work for the preservation and reinforcement of the human rights of LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex and other) people, both at national and international levels. Our efforts are fully in line with the Federal Action Plan "For an LGBTQI+ friendly Belgium" which aims, in a systemic approach, to increase the safety of LGBTQI+ people and to maximize their inclusion.
In 2023, our country tied for 2nd place in ILGA Europe's Rainbow Index, which compares the legal framework for LGBTQI+ rights in 49 European countries. This international position is the result of continuous and persevering policy work. Since the 2000s, the improvement of LGBTQI+ rights in Belgium was accelerated. Indeed, 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the law allowing same-sex marriage. Since 2018, transgender people are able to officially change the registration of their gender and first names without having to meet certain medical conditions. More recently, in 2022, our country passed a bill to ban conversion therapies.
"Together always: united in diversity" is the theme of this international day in 2023. At a time when the hard-earned achievements made by the world's LGBTQI+ communities are increasingly under threat, solidarity is more crucial than ever.
As a matter of fact, LGBTQI+ people continue to face violence and discrimination - sometimes even torture or execution. The increasing rhetoric of anti-gender movements and the adoption of laws criminalizing homosexuality and trans-identity in several parts of the world are particularly disturbing. This decline in the human rights of LGBTQI+ people should be a wake-up call. Sexual orientation and gender identity should never give ground to discrimination or abuse. Belgium also regrets that the protection and promotion of these human rights are too often considered a pernicious Western influence. Indeed, many international human rights conventions are applicable to the situation of LGBTQI+ people.
The fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender characteristics, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIESC) is a priority of Belgium's foreign policy, including during our mandate at the Human Rights Council (2023-2025). In this framework, we will continue to support the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and keep these issues high on the agenda. With other states, Belgium will continue to advocate for the decriminalization of homosexual relations and trans-identity. Furthermore, through the Belgian Trust Fund of the Council of Europe, our country will contribute 100.000 euros to the budget of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Unit (SOGI) of this organization.
This year as well, the FPS Foreign Affairs - and Belgium as a whole - is mobilizing to reiterate its active support for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people.
On May 17, Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib will meet in Sarajevo with several representatives of civil society organizations working on LGBTQI+ rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this matter, Belgium would like to commend the work and courageous advocacy efforts of human rights defenders, activists, journalists, media professionals and civil society organizations to raise awareness and further the human rights of LGBTQI+ people.
In addition, Belgium's action will also revolve around the participation of our embassies abroad in various events in honor of IDAHOT or national Prides, as well as displaying the LGBTQI+ flag on our Representations.
In Brussels, the pedestrian crossing at the entrance of the FPS Foreign Affairs will be painted in rainbow colors. We invite you to follow these initiatives on our social networks. #IDAHOT2023 #BelgiumMFA.