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Brussels to become LGBT capital of Europe in 2017
In the countdown to the 17th of May’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the IDAHO forum, a European conference about LGBT rights, kicks off every year. The fifth edition is organised next year in Brussels. Federal Secretary of State Elke Sleurs is working together with Flemish minister Liesbeth Homans and Brussels Secretary of State Bianca Debaets (CD&V) on this. They are all responsible for Equal Opportunities. “We wish to boost our initiatives around LGBT rights and transgender rights in particular, and share them with our European partners,” Elke Sleurs explains.
The IDAHO forum initially began as an informal network of experts who exchanged best practices among more than twenty European countries. The initiative has grown into a solid conference now, and also contains a ministerial part. The European Commission is also closely involved with the process.
Belgium is and remains a leader when it comes to LGBT rights and transgender rights in particular, which is why it rightfully takes second place on the ILGA-scale. But not every European country is as far along. The European Union still contains countries where, for example, the constitution stipulates that marriage is only possible between a man and a woman. A conference such as the IDAHO forum can therefore play an important role in nudging those countries in the right direction.
“We must continue to stay true to our leading role,” Elke Sleurs asserts. “For example, a modification of the transgender law is in the works. We will also serve as an example in this respect and go for full demedicalisation: the medical and physical criteria for an official sex change must be abolished. Self-determination must be central. Our ambition is to gain first place on the ILGA scale.”
A shift of mentality
“We’re nearly there in Belgium when it comes to regulations. The main challenge is and remains, not only for us but in Europe as a whole, to bring about a shift of mentality. Flanders has quite a few levers in this respect,” Liesbeth Homans concludes.
The cost price of the organisation is estimated at 200,000 euros. The federal level takes care of half of this, and Flanders and Brussels the other half.