Edited by Eva Brems and Saïla Ouald-Chaib
Chapter 5: Human rights integration in action: making equality law work for trans people in Belgium
This chapter reflects the legal battle pursued in Belgium to fight the disturbing legal requirements (such as psychiatrisation, compulsory surgery and sterilisation) to legally changing one’s gender. Yet, giving legal recognition to a trans person’s gender identity is a first and necessary step towards equality and dignity. The Belgian case is highly relevant as the Belgian legal situation is far from isolated and recent major EU survey put Belgium at the forefront of the European countries which discriminate most against trans people when looking for work and in the workplace. The strategies which were developed to successfully challenge the Belgian law were embedded in the Human Rights Integration project. Through the lenses of the work we engaged in the Equality Law Clinic, this chapter explains how important users in the field played a key role in the legislative process. The Belgian law of 25 June 2017, which drastically revises legal gender recognition procedure is the result of a participatory process in which many stakeholders were involved. Trans people were at the core of the reform along with representatives of LGBT organisations, grassroots movements and academics linked to the Equality Law Clinic. The latter was an important player in bringing the legal expertise of an integrated approach to human rights which empowered the stakeholders concerned so as to make their voice heard and to change the law.
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