August 2023 | Government suspends places for single male asylum-seekers in reception facilities
The government imposed a temporary ban on the provision of shelter to single male asylum-seekers, arguing that women, children and families should be prioritised for access to shelter in overstretched reception facilities. Despite efforts to boost capacity, including the opening of new reception centres, shelters for asylum-seekers have been overwhelmed for the past two years, with arrivals of asylum-seekers expected to increase over the winter, according to the State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor. The decision has been criticised by the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner and human rights NGOs, as well as by Belgian public officials. In June, a Brussels court ruled that Belgium has violated commitments binding EU member states to guarantee asylum-seekers’ rights to an adequate standard of living and protect the applicants’ physical and mental health.
November 2022 | Government approves bans on conversion practices and adopts femicide law
A new law banning conversion practices was approved by the Belgian Cabinet, introducing a maximum punishment of two years in prison. Conversion practices involve attempts to force a change in a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, with methods ranging from psychotherapy, electroshock therapy, medication, and physical violence. Conversion practices are condemned by the European Union, and the European Parliament has called on member states to implement bans. The Council of Ministers also adopted a framework law which defines femicide as a crime and establishes a system for the official collection and analysis of data related to femicides. State Secretary for Gender Equality Sarah Schlitz, who sponsored the law, has said that it intends to create “effective tools to better understand the phenomenon and protect the victims.”