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Press release by 6 associations for Belgian Pride 2016

Publié le 19 mai 2016

Belgium must respect the fundamental rights of transgender people

In 2014, the Federal Government Agreement stated that "’the Law on Transsexuality of May 10th, 2007’ would be adapted in accordance with the international human rights obligations”. Genres Pluriels, together with the country’s three lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) umbrella organisations, Arc-en-Ciel Wallonie, Çavaria and the RainbowHouse Brussels, as well as Amnesty International and the Human Rights League, are calling upon the Government and the Parliament to honour without delay this commitment.

The rights of trans* people are at the heart of the 2016 edition of the Pride.be. We are mobilising our organisations in order to clarify and explain in detail our proposals, with the assistance of the Equality Law Clinic of the Free University of Brussels. We acclaim the constructive discussions that were initiated with the Government. We call upon all the political parties to do background work addressing the top four priorities for the respect of the fundamental rights of the persons concerned.

First, it is imperative that the recognition of gender in civil status registers and on any official documents be completely dissociated from any kind of medical and psychiatric history. Trans* people must be given the right to self-determination of their personal identity, including gender identity. This is a necessary precondition for their social integration. It also entails the right to protection of all personal data that could a posteriori reveal one’s trans* history.

Second, Belgium must adopt a clear policy on depsychiatrisation and depathologisation of trans* people. While trans* people should have free access to psychological counselling and to the medical treatment of their choice should they choose to modify their primary or secondary sex characteristics, they must not be subject to any obligation in these matters. In particular, access to treatment must in no way be gated behind visas or psychiatric consultations.

Third, it is necessary to guarantee access to freely chosen medical healthcare as well as the rights of the patient, in particular the free choice of one’s practitioner. Moreover, access to the chosen healthcare is only effective if reimbursement is guaranteed, regardless of the access conditions and in full transparency. Without these guarantees, the right to the free development of one’s gender identity would remain a fiction for many trans* people despite it being recognized by the law.

Fourth, our proposals aim to ensure that medical treatments available for trans* minors are in conformity with the provisions of the international Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Belgian law that has been in effect since 2007 violates all of these rights and principles. By making medical procedures that include sterilisation a precondition for the rectification of civil status registers, it forces trans* people to choose between mutilation and endless social exclusion. Furthermore, by locking them into a mandatory and rigid treatment pathway, it denies their diversity and their physical and psychological integrity.

Step by step other countries show the way, in Europe (Denmark, Malta) and elsewhere (Argentina has been an example for the rest of the world since 2012). A legal doctrine is being created based on the Yogyakarta Principles, to which the Government Agreement of 2014 makes reference. The pseudo-medical doctrines of the past are being challenged, with the support of the European Union and the Council of Europe.

From 2016 onwards, Belgium has the opportunity to start contributing to this movement, to this global progress, for it involves breaking down gender stereotypes and the compulsory and sometimes arbitrary assignment of people to strictly binary-gendered categories.