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European Union

Dutch ambassador to U.S. reaffirms country’s commitment to LGBTQ+, intersex rights

Amsterdam Rainbow Dress displayed at Lincoln Memorial on Monday



André Haspels (Photo courtesy of the Dutch Embassy)

WASHINGTON — Dutch Ambassador to the U.S. André Haspels on Tuesday said the Netherlands remains committed to LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in his country and around the world.

Haspels spoke with the Washington Blade a day after the embassy, the Capital Pride Alliance and the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress Foundation showcased the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress at the Lincoln Memorial.

The dress, which has a 52′ circumference, contains the flags of the 68 countries in which consensual same-sex consensual relations remain criminalized. 

The Netherlands in 2001 became the first country in the world to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. The dress’ bodice, which is made with Amsterdam’s city flag, commemorates this watershed moment in the global LGBTQ+ and intersex rights movement.

A press release from the Dutch Embassy notes the dress was made in 2016 and was first displayed at Rotterdam Pride. 

Models in the U.S., Spain, South Africa, Greece, Australia and other countries have worn it. Makia Green, an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights activist, and Vagenesis, a drag performer and advocate, wore the dress while it was in D.C.

“We invited the Rainbow Dress to come over to the United States, to Washington, to show our support for LGBTIQ+ rights worldwide,” said Haspels. “What better location is there in front of the Lincoln Memorial, because LGBTIQ+ rights are part of a broader aspect of human rights.”

“The main issue is to focus on the importance of LGBTQI rights, and also understanding and promoting the fact that it is important to ensure freedom for everyone to decide whom they want to love and to identify and whom they want to identify with as they wish,” he added. “That’s our goal for the Amsterdam Rainbow Dress.”

The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress in D.C. on May 15, 2023. (Photo by Stephen Voss)

Haspels spoke with the Blade a day before the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which commemorates the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder on May 17, 1990.

Kyiv Pride on Wednesday noted its staffers visited the Dutch Embassy in the Ukrainian capital, “where the flag of the LGBTIQ+ community was solemnly raised in honor of the Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.”

“This was an extremely important event for our community,” tweeted Kyiv Pride.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on May 4 met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and other members of his government while he was in the country. Zelenskyy also visited the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The ICC in March issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova. The Netherlands-based court accuses them of abducting children from Ukraine. 

“It is important to continue to support Ukraine in many different ways,” Haspels told the Blade. “We continue to support them with military aid, with rehabilitation aid. We also receive refugees from Ukraine.”

Haspels said his government continues to gather “information about war crimes to make sure those who are responsible for this terrible war will be held accountable.” He also said the Netherlands continues to “welcome all Ukrainians, irrespective of their backgrounds, and who they are.”

“They are most welcome,” said Haspels.

The Amsterdam Rainbow Dress in D.C. on May 15, 2023. (Photo by Stephen Voss)

Haspels noted WorldPride 2026 will take place in Amsterdam. (The biennial event will take place in D.C. in 2025.) 

The Netherlands is a member of the Global Equality Fund, a U.S. initiative that seeks to promote LGBTQ and intersex rights around the world. Haspels pointed out to the Blade that his country also works with the European Union on these issues, and has invited activists from Uganda and other countries to the Netherlands.

Ugandan lawmakers earlier this month once again approved their country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains a death penalty provision for anyone found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality.” The Netherlands is among the countries that have urged Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to veto the bill.

“We have to be honest, it’s not always an easy environment,” Haspels told the Blade in response to a question about the Anti-Homosexuality Act and supporting LGBTQ and intersex activists and rights around the world. “Sometimes you have to be cautious also not to bring people, in this case, Ugandan people, into danger.”

“It’s not easy, but we have no alternative than to continue focusing on these rights and strive for improvement,” he added.

‘We also can improve’

The Netherlands received a 56 percent score in the annual ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map and Index report that the European LGBTQ and intersex rights group last week. ILGA-Europe made three specific recommendations to the Dutch government.

         • Prohibiting medical interventions on intersex minors when the intervention has no medical necessity and can be avoided or postponed until the person can provide informed consent. 

         • Reforming the legal framework for legal gender recognition to be fair, transparent, based on a process of self-determination and free from abusive requirements (such as GID/medical diagnosis or age restriction.) 

         • Banning so-called “conversion practices” on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Haspels acknowledged his government can do more to extend rights to LGBTQ and intersex people.

“There’s the law, and there’s the rules and regulations, which are very important,” he said. “We also can improve.”

Haspels noted there is “still a lot of legislation in preparation in order to improve the situation.” Haspels also specifically pointed to violence against LGBTQ and intersex rights activists where the “police did not act responsibly.”

“We’re struggling with that,” he said.

“There’s scope for improvement for my country as well, but again, I think the most important thing is to bring it out in the open, to start a discussion,” added Haspels. “That’s also the idea of the Rainbow Dress, and we’re also working together with United States. Also there in the United States, things can still be improved … We follow closely what’s going on in other countries, but the most important thing is to have a dialogue.”


European Union

Latvia elects first openly gay President

Latvia’s neighbors have also been slow to advance LGBT rights, although Estonia’s government is expected to advance a same-sex marriage bill



Edgars Rinkēvičs, then Latvia's Foreign Minister, speaking at the annual Foreign Policy Debate in the Latvian Parliament (Saeima), 26 January 2023. (Photo Credit: Government of Latvia/Facebook)

By Rob Salerno | RIGA – The Latvian Parliament elected Edgars Rinkēvičs as the country’s next president in a vote held Wednesday. When he assumes office on July 8, he will be the country’s first openly gay head of state, as well as the first openly gay head of state of an EU country or a former Soviet country.

Latvia’s President is a largely ceremonial role that is elected by the national Parliament. He won a narrow majority of 52 out of 100 votes on the third ballot, held coincidentally during Pride week in the capital, Riga.

Rinkēvičs has served as Latvia’s foreign minister since 2011, a post where he became popular for championing European integration. 

In 2014, he became the first Latvian political figure to come out publicly, while the country debated a same-sex civil union law. To date, the Latvian Parliament has still been unable to pass any laws recognizing same-sex couples, despite multiple court decisions ordering it to do so.

Reached for comment after the election, the Latvian LGBT advocacy group Mozaika and Riga Pride released a joint statement saying they are thrilled with the election.

“We are thrilled about the fact that Edgars Rinkevics will be the next President of Latvia.  First and foremost, he is one of the most popular and professional politicians in Latvia, and with this election “he broke the glass ceiling.” He is an absolute inspiration to many young people and the LGBT community at large. 

“We are hopeful that he will stand behind his promise to have human rights and democracy as one of his priorities and we believe he will play an instrumental role to strengthen Latvia’s society and will make it safer not just for the LGBT community but for many vulnerable groups,” the groups say.

Pride parade in the Latvian capital city of Riga. (Photo Credit: Riga Pride/Facebook)

Not everyone has been so thrilled. Former Member of the European Parliament Andrejs Mamikins, tweeted that “God will no longer bless Latvia,” in response to the election.

“Today, godlessness won the presidential election in Latvia. Disgrace and misery @edgarsrinkevics,” he wrote. 

Latvian TV reports that the State Police have opened an investigation into Mamikins’ post for possible violations of the law banning incitement to hatred. 

Latvia, a deeply conservative Baltic nation of about 1.8 million people about one-third of whom are Russian-speakers, regained its independence amid the breakup of the Soviet Union. Since that time, it has taken a stridently pro-Western political orientation, including joining NATO, the European Union, and the Eurozone. 

But the country’s political elite has never warmly embraced LGBT rights. According to ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Index 2023, Latvia scored only 22% on a list of legislated rights for LGBT people, placing it 37th among 49 ranked countries.

Latvia’s neighbors on the Baltic Sea have also been slow to advance LGBT rights, although Estonia’s government is expected to advance a same-sex marriage bill in Parliament next week, and Lithuania’s parliament passed a civil union bill through a second reading vote in May.

While openly gay and lesbian people have served as prime minister of several other EU countries – including Ireland’s Leo Varadkar, Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel, and Belgium’s Elio Di Rupo – Rinkēvičs will be the first gay person to hold the role of head of state of an EU country. The only other openly gay head of state in modern history was Paolo Rondelli, who was one of the two Captains Regent of the microstate San Marino for six months in 2022.


Rob Salerno is a writer, journalist and actor based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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European Union

Spain joins global LGBTQ+, intersex rights initiative

The Global Equality Fund is a US-led campaign



The 2017 World Pride parade took place in Madrid. Spain is the latest country to join the Global Equality Fund, a U.S. initiative that seeks to promote LGBTQ+ and intersex rights around the world. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — Spain has become the latest country to join a U.S. initiative that seeks to promote LGBTQ+ and intersex rights around the world.

“The United States and Spain recognize that all human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they love. Promoting and protecting the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons is an important part of our shared foreign policy objectives,” reads a statement from the U.S. and Spanish governments the State Department issued on Wednesday. 

“Consistent with its commitment to these values, Spain formally announced it would join the Global Equality Fund as a donor partner,” it adds.

The statement notes Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares on Wednesday “participated in a signing ceremony to mark this commitment.”

Argentina, Australia, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Uruguay contribute to the fund alongside the Arcus Foundation, the John D. Evans Foundation, the M•A•C AIDS Fund, Deloitte, the Royal Bank of Canada, Hilton Worldwide, Bloomberg and Out Leadership.

“Through the Global Equality Fund, like-minded governments, foundations, and corporations provide support to civil society organizations working to promote inclusion and respect for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or sex characteristics,” notes the statement from the U.S. and Spain. “The United States and Spain will continue to work to ensure that all people — including LGBTQI+ persons — can live in dignity, freedom, and equality.”

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European Union

Spanish lawmakers approve landmark Transgender rights bill

Anyone over 16-years-old can legally change gender without medical intervention



Spanish parliament (Photo by adamico/Bigstock)

MADRID — Spanish lawmakers on Thursday gave their final approval to a bill that would allow people who are at least 16-years-old to legally change their gender without medical intervention.

Deutsche Welle reported 191 Spanish MPs voted for the measure, while 60 opposed it and 91 abstained.

Trans people in Spain previously needed to prove a doctor had diagnosed them with gender dysphoria and show evidence they had undergone hormone therapy for at least two years in order to legally change their gender. A minor who wanted to legally change their gender needed to obtain a judge’s approval.

The bill that Spanish MPs approved applies to anyone who is at least 16-years-old.

Teeangers who are 14- or 15-years-old can seek to legally change their gender with approval from a parent or legal guardian. A judge still needs to approve requests from 12- or 13-year-olds. 

Deutsche Welle reported the bill also bans so-called conversion therapy and includes provisions to address discrimination based on gender identity in employment, education and housing.

“This law recognizes the right of trans people to self-determine their gender identity, it depathologizes Trans people,” said Equalities Minister Irene Moreno before the vote. “Trans people are not sick people, they are just people.” 

Four Spanish LGBTQ+ and intersex rights groups — FELGTBI+ (the State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transgender People, Bisexuals, Intersexuals and More), Chrysallis, the Association of Families of Transgender Children and Youth and Fundación Triángulo — in a statement celebrated the bill’s passage.

“It is fundamental that what is reflected in the law makes us one of the countries with the most advanced legislation in terms of LGTBI+ rights,” said FELGTBI+ President Urge Sangil. “This translates into real rights.”

The statement adds the bill’s passage is “only the first step to stop hate towards the LGTBI+ community and hate speech.”

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European Union

USAID administrator meets with Hungarian LGBTQ+ activists

Meeting with Samantha Power took place on Feb. 10 in Budapest



U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power speaks in Budapest, Hungary, last week. (Photo courtesy of USAID)

BUDAPEST, Hungary — U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power on Feb. 10 met with three LGBTQ+ and intersex activists in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.

Budapest Pride President Viktoria Radvanyi and Hungarian Helsinki Committee Head of Advocacy András Léderer are two of the activists who met with Power.

USAID spokesperson Jessica Jennings in a press release said the activists “discussed the experiences of LGBTQI+ people in Hungary and their efforts to increase understanding, support marginalized groups and improve the lives of LGBTQI+ people in Hungary” with Power.

“The administrator (Power) emphasized that the United States will continue to stand as an ally with LGBTQI+ people and all marginalized groups in their struggle for equality,” noted Jennings.

The meeting took place against the backdrop of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s crackdown on LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in Hungary.

Radvanyi on Monday noted to the Washington Blade it is “impossible to change your gender legally in Hungary” because of a 2020 law that “banned legal gender recognition of Transgender and intersex people.” 

An anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law that Radvanyi said was “copy and pasted” from Russia took effect in 2021. Hungarian MPs in 2020 effectively banned same-sex couples from adopting children and defined marriage in the country’s constitution as between a man and a woman.

The European Commission last July sued Hungary, which is a member of the European Union, over the country’s propaganda law.

President Joe Biden in 2021 signed a memorandum that commited the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. David Pressman, the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, is openly gay.

Jennings in the USAID press release did not say whether Pressman attended the meeting with the activists, but it did note he met with Power before she left Budapest. Radvanyi said the activists who attended “were all very honored that Administrator Power had a dedicated meeting just about the Hungarian LGBTQ community and LGBTQ issues.”

“We know that she has a very, very busy schedule,” Radvanyi told the Blade. “We really appreciated that she treated the case of our community as such a high priority.” 

Léderer described the meeting as a “very honest, sincere conversation on the situation of the Hungarian LGBT+ community.”

“In addition to how the community as a whole carries on amidst growing homo- and transphobic government policies and statements, she also wanted to know how individual members of the community, including those fighting for equal treatment and human rights, are coping with the hostile environment,” Léderer told the Blade, referring to Power. “We were happy to share great examples of resilience, including the successful campaign led by civil society organisations last year to invalidate the homo- and transphobic referendum initiated by the government by casting purposefully spoiled ballots.” 

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European Union

Finland to allow Transgender people to change gender without sterilization

Country’s MPs approved series of amendments on Wednesday



Finnish flag (Photo by feofan4ik via Bigstock)

HELSINKI — Lawmakers in Finland on Wednesday voted to allow Transgender people to legally change their gender without proof they had been sterilized or were unable to have children.

The Associated Press reported the amendments that Finnish MPs approved by a 113-69 vote margin will also allow Trans people who are at least 18 to legally change their name without medical intervention. Prime Minister Sanna Marin said the amendments’ passage was a priority for her government ahead of the country’s general election that will take place in April.

Seta, a Finnish LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, described the vote as a “victory for human rights.”

ILGA-Europe also praised the vote.

“We are thrilled to hear that the Finnish Parliament just adopted Translaki — a new law making legal gender recognition based on self-determination for adults,” said ILGA-Europe. “While there is more work to do, this is a significant step! Congratulations to all who have worked for so long on this!”

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European Union

European Court of Human Rights rules against Lithuanian propaganda law

Children’s book author in 2019 challenged anti-LGBTQ statute



(Bigstock photo)

STRASBOURG, France — The European Court of Human Rights on Monday ruled Lithuania’s anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

Author Neringa Dangvydė Macatė in 2019 filed a lawsuit against the law after Lithuanian authorities censured her children’s book that featured two same-sex couples.

The law specifically bans the distribution of information to minors that “expresses contempt for family values, encourages the concept of entry into a marriage and creation of a family other than stipulated in the Constitution of the republic of Lithuania and the Civil Code of the republic of Lithuania.” The court in April 2022 heard Macatė’s case.

Openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Bob Gilchrist is among those who have publicly criticized the law. Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, an openly gay Lithuanian MP who is running for mayor of Vlinius, the country’s capital, told the Washington Blade the ruling will bolster efforts to repeal the propaganda law.

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European Union

Dutch Constitution to be amended banning LGBTQ+ discrimination

Enshrining the rights of LGBTQ people is a “historic victory for the rainbow community,” said advocacy group COC Nederland



King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, addresses the 74th Session of the General Assembly of the UN (Screenshot/YouTube)

AMSTERDAM – The Upper House of the States General of the Netherlands, the supreme bicameral legislature of the kingdom voted to amend Article 1 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, expanding it to prohibit discrimination against someone because of a disability or sexual orientation. 

In a 56­–15 vote in the Eerste Kamer, [the Dutch Senate] the proposal for amendment passed and is now headed to King Willem-Alexander for his Royal assent and the Dutch government. Once approved it will be published in the Staatscourant, the official government publication that formally announces new laws in the kingdom.

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and activists celebrated the vote. Enshrining the rights of LGBTI people in the constitution is a “historic victory for the rainbow community,” said advocacy group COC Nederland. The Dutch LGBTQ+ rights group was founded in 1946 and is considered the oldest existing LGBTQ+ organization in the world.

Dutch media outlet NL Times noted that Article 1 states that everyone in the Netherlands “shall be treated equally in equal circumstances.” The following sentence goes on to explicitly mention several examples, including “religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex.” That list will now be expanded.

The procedure for such an adjustment takes years because it has to be voted on several times. With the Senate’s vote, that process has now been completed.

The change was the result of an initiative from coalition party D66 and left wing opposition parties PvdA and GroenLinks that has developed over the course of twelve years. “You can rightly call this day historic!” said D66 Member of Parliament Alexander Hammelburg, who helped defend the law in the Senate.

“A disability, or who you fall in love with, should never be a reason to be excluded,” said PvdA member Habtamu de Hoop.

NL Times also reported that since 2004, COC has advocated anchoring the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people in the Constitution. This has already happened in countries such as Sweden, Portugal, Malta, Mexico and South Africa.

An association representing people with physical and mental disabilities, or chronic illnesses, also called it a “historic” day. “Adding the disability basis to Article 1 is historic news,” said Ieder(in) director Illya Soffer. “The government is given an additional task to permanently improve and strengthen the position of people with a disability. Not only in legislation, but also in practice,” Soffer continued.

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European Union

France: Bullying & homophobia- 13 year old dies by suicide

According to the most recent statistics every year in France 700,000 pupils are victims of harassment at school



Family provided photo

GOLBEY, France – A 13-year-old student, the victim of homophobia and bullying at his school, was buried yesterday a week after he killed himself. The death shook this small township of around 8,000 people in northeastern France.

Identified only as Lucas, the young boy was a student at the Louis Armand college in Golbey. [The school is rough equivalent to an American middle school]

According to the French LGBTQ+ media outlet Tê and media outlet ici par France Bleu & France 3, Valérie Dautreme, the academic director of the national education services in the Vosges, labeled the news “terrible” and acknowledged Lucas and his mother reported “mockery” related to the teenager’s sexual orientation from the first parent-teacher meeting last Fall in September. 

While the family has yet to comment on the circumstances leading to their son’s death, Dautreme says “the situation was taken very seriously by the establishment, by the head teacher,” claiming that school staff and peer groups intervened. She then said that in regards to the initial reporting of the bullying that “For us, and I mean at this stage, the situation had been resolved: Lucas said afterwards that things had settled down, that he was no longer being teased.”

Referring to his suicide she noted, “obviously, the investigation is in progress and for the moment, these are only incomplete elements.”

 “The family is destroyed by grief. The boy’s mother is asking for justice, she wants the investigation to identify those responsible so that they are punished – underlined the family’s attorney, Catherine Faivre. “Lucas had expressed that he was gay and his classmates were aware of it.”

The case drew the attention of France’s First Lady, Brigitte Macron, who has intervened taking up the cause against bullying in the nation’s schools using Lucas’ case to spotlight the need for reform and prevention.

“I am in favor of raising the awareness of teaching staff and those who work in universities and high schools to better identify cases of harassment,” Macron told Le Parisien.

A portion of the teen’s diary was publicly disclosed in which he had written “I want to end it,” press accounts noted that he kept the diary locked in his desk drawer in his bedroom. The diary’s existence was disclosed as part of the ongoing investigation into the teen’s death by Frédéric Nahon, the local prosecutor [District Attorney] who noted in press accounts that the teenager’s diary was examined by the investigators who found there are no direct allusions to the reasons for the suicide.

Nahon said that the first interrogations of the family’s acquaintances and neighbors confirmed the existence of repeated homophobic teasing and insults. Nahon is trying to determine “the exact content of the insults, the duration over time of the bullying acts and any omissions by those who were aware of the facts.”  No criminal complaints have been filed.

According to the most recent statistics every year in France 700,000 pupils are victims of harassment at school.  

Last February France’s parliament adopted a new law that will make school bullying a criminal offence, which either students or staff can be prosecuted for Euronews reported.

Those found guilty under the new legislation face a €45,000 if the victim of bullying is unable to attend schools for up to eight days.

But more serious incidents can be punished with up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of €150,000 for longer periods of school absence or if the victim commits suicide or attempts to.

“Homophobia kills,” France’s openly gay Transport Minister Clément Beaune said to French media outlets after learning of the teen’s suicide. 

The Louis Armand college, which has 697 students, is involved in the national pHARe system to fight against bullying and its teachers are trained and students are also required to take classes to prevent bullying.

A crowd-fundraiser to defray funeral costs for the family was able to raise €7,554 ($8,182.76 USD).


The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgment-free place to talk for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386

If you or anyone you love is experiencing mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. You can call or text the number 988, which will direct you to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

It is free and available 24 hours a day.

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European Union

Irish government pledges to ban conversion therapy in 2023

Openly gay minister described practice as ‘cruel process’



The Irish Dáil. (Photo by Honster/Bigstock)

DUBLIN, Ireland — The Irish government has committed to banning so-called conversion therapy in the country this year.

The Irish Mirror newspaper reported Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Minister Roderic O’Gorman, who is openly gay, last month described conversion therapy as a”cruel process rooted in the promotion of shame.” O’Gorman also stressed “a process that seeks for somebody to change their sexual orientation or gender identity is extremely exploitative, particularly if undertaken on someone under 18.

“I’d hope to bring the legislation into the Dáil (the lower house of the Irish Parliament) next year,” he told the Irish Mirror. “Obviously, legislation takes time but I think it’s possible we could have it passed by the end of the year. That’s certainly what I’d be working towards, but it could drift into 2024.”

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is also openly gay.

Malta, Brazil and Canada are among the countries that ban the widely discredited practice.

Then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision last year to exclude Transgender people from a bill to ban conversion therapy in England and Wales sparked outrage among LGBTQ+ and intersex activists. The British government subsequently cancelled an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights conference after advocacy groups announced they would boycott it.

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European Union

Belgian Parliament approves a ban on conversion therapy

“Belgium is a pioneer in the field of LGBTQ rights- but a ban [on conversion practices] was sadly missing from our legislative arsenal”



Federal Parliament of Belgium, Palace of the Nation Brussels (Photo Credit: Federal Parliament of Belgium)

BRUSSELS – The Federal bicameral Parliament of Belgium approved a ban on the practise of conversion therapy according to the State Secretary for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunity and Diversity Sarah Schlitz.

The Brussels Times, an English-language Belgian news website and magazine, reported that in a press statement Schlitz said: “Belgium is a pioneer in the field of LGBTQ rights. Numerous legislative reforms and social efforts bear witness to this, but a ban [on conversion practices] was sadly missing from our legislative arsenal,” Schlitz said in a press release.

The Brussels based non-profit educational think tank association, Centre Permanent pour la Citoyenneté et la Participation, noted in a May 2022 report that the practices, which are aimed at changing or removing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, can take many forms ranging from the discussion table to drug treatments or exorcism sessions.

The Centre found that overall the affect of conversion therapy had long term damaging affects. The report went on to note that conversion therapy practices are “deceptive, ineffective and dangerous” practices that aim to change, suppress or eliminate the sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression of LGBTQ people.

Methods range from psychotherapy and electroshock therapy to beatings and even “corrective rape.” They can take place in religious, medical or sectarian environments, can be carried out by relatives or pseudo-professionals and have terrible consequences for the people who undergo them, The Brussels Times reported quoting the findings.

“The opportunity to be yourself and the freedom to live the way you want is a fundamental principle of our society that must not be compromised under any circumstances,” Schlitz said. “This prohibition is a powerful act to protect the victims from this symbolic, psychological and sometimes physical violence.”

The Times went on to report that anyone caught practising and violating the ban may be facing imprisonment of one month to two years and/or a fine of €100 to €300.

The language of the law also specifies that [the court] will also take into account whether the offence was committed by a person in a recognised position of trust, authority or influence over the victim and whether the offence was committed against a minor or a person in a vulnerable situation.

Suggesting or inciting conversion practices, directly or indirectly, will also be penalised. The court will be able to prohibit people convicted of conversion practices from carrying out a professional or social activity related to the commission of these offences for a maximum period of five years, the Times noted.

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