Brussels Pride last weekend welcomed over 150,000 attendees and was supported by dozens of organisations and artists.
Styled “The Belgian and European Pride”, it took place in the sunshine on Saturday 20 June and was the culmination of Brussels’ Pride Week, as well as being the trailblazer for other Pride parades yet to happen this calendar year around Europe.
The celebrations included the 20th anniversary of same-sex marriage rights being enshrined in Belgian law, but also served as a reminder that the fundamental rights of LGBTQIA+ people around the world are still not respected.
Pride’s aim is for people to come together “to defend their rights and celebrate diversity”, said Radjiny Schiltz, a Pride spokesperson.
This year, more than ever, the aim is to ensure that the fundamental rights of the LGBTQIA+ community are upheld.Radjiny Schiltz, a Pride spokesperson
Pride has many objectives: to raise awareness of issues faced by those who identify as LGBTQIA+; to celebrate difference; to promote equality; to provide a platform for advocacy; and to create unity and safe spaces where all feel protected and included.
A Liege couple told RTL that, at Pride, they could be affectionate with each other in public in a way that they did not always feel safe doing day-to-day in their home city. Another participant declared “Love is for everyone and we have open hearts for everyone.”
Pride is well-known for its joy and exuberance but also for hate crime incidents. In 2018, a group of 15 adolescents attacked three men and last year a transgender boy and his family were attacked by a group of around twenty men.
Two safe spaces were provided in the city centre during the event, one near Brussels’ iconic Mannekin Pis statue (who wore a special Pride outfit for the occasion). The other was located near legendary concert hall Ancienne Belgique. Participants could approach these areas for quiet time away from the crowds in a specially designed well-being zone, as well as having access to health professionals in case of over-indulgence, violence or other needs.
In terms of advocacy, the 2023 theme was “Protect the Protest”, a motif borrowed from Amnesty International. The LGBTQIA+ community are not alone in facing oppression and isolation. High profile protests recently quashed by authorities include those in Iran as well as at the UK’s recent coronation of Charles II. Schiltz explained: “Everyone thinks the right to protest is guaranteed everywhere, but it absolutely is not. Freedom and diversity still have to be fought for. Everyone should be able to be who they want to be, wherever they are.”