Belgium is one of the most progressive countries when it comes to LGBT rights, not only in Europe but also in the entire world. For travelers, Belgium doesn’t offer a wide variety of destinations, since it’s one of the smallest countries in the world. There are a few cozy towns, like Antwerp, Gent, Hasselt and its capital Brussels. The country has a short coastline with a few beach towns and on the other side of the country, you’ll find a range of small mountains. You can drive through Belgium in three hours. Roads are good and it’s also possible to travel by public transportation, of which trains are the best options. Belgium is also part of the Interrail program, which allows you to include the small country into a rail trip through Europe.
Post Last Updated: October 2017
LGBT Rights in Belgium
As one of the most progressive countries in the world, Belgium has a fixed set of laws that apply in the entire country. The law is very comprehensive and clear about all aspects of LGBT rights and human rights.
Homosexuality is legal in Belgium since 1795. The age of consent is 16. Of course, there are still some restrictions to protect children under the age of 18.
Domestic partnership and civil union are also legal in Belgium and same-sex couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples. Belgium recognizes domestic partnership officially and they offer official documents to prove your relationship.
Same-sex marriage is legal since 2003. Same-sex couples have the same rights as every other couple. Belgium was the second country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands.
LGBT couples are allowed to adopt children since 2006, no matter if the child is a stepchild or not. IVF is also allowed for lesbian couples. In theory, the husband of the biological mother of a child is automatically recognized as the father of the child in straight couples. Before 2015, homosexual couples had to register to adopt the child of their partner. In 2015 a law passed that recognized the official partner of the biological mother as the parent of the child.
Change Legal Gender in Belgium
Changing your legal gender is possible in Belgium. People had to undergo surgery and their physical body had to match the new gender before their legal gender could be changed. Before 2007 a judge had to approve the change of gender, in consent with psychologists and doctors. Since 2007, changing gender has become easier and currently, a new law is being created to make it less difficult to change legal gender. If this new law passes, people will be able to change gender without undergoing surgery. Belgium has a few hospitals that specialize in gender reassignments and people travel from other countries to get surgery at the University Hospital of Ghent.
LGBT Safety in Belgium
The anti-discrimination law that passed in 2003 protects LGBT from discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation. In 2014 the law expanded to protect people based on their gender expression. Hate crimes can still happen and LGBT people can still get harassed. Belgium acts on that and in 2014 the Belgian court jailed four people for being guilty of homophobic murder. It was the first court trial where a crime, based on hate for sexual orientation, actually fell under this new law.
Belgium is relatively safe for LGBT people and it’s safe to show affection in public. The country has a wide variety of gay establishments and it is considered one of the safest countries for LGBT in the world.
LGBT – Friendly places in Belgium
Belgium has tons of opportunities for gay men, but lesbian women tend to have more trouble finding women-only parties. If you’re traveling to Belgium and hope to find a lesbian party, you might need to check a few places for party dates. These are a few resources to find lesbian parties, lesbian festivals, and other lesbian opportunities.
Café de Love is an immensely popular, bimonthly party concept in Antwerp.
Also in Antwerp, you’ll find a relatively new bar She’s. They have regular parties and events.
Labyrinth is a lesbian organization that has regular parties in Leuven.
SheShe Bar in Gent is a meeting place for women. They also have monthly lesbian parties.
Girls Heart Brussels is a yearly weekend event in Brussels, featuring a different theme each year. They have a complete weekend package, with parties and other female-oriented activities.
Unfortunately, hate crimes can occur at any place and any time! Public display of affection can always trigger people to respond in a negative way. Try to be cautious and aware of your surroundings.