The Belgian constitution has explicitly affirmed the principle of equality between women and men since 2002, thanks to an amendment to Article 10. However, Belgium has a long experience in gender mainstreaming, mainly inspired by the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. After a start-up phase – with a law adopted in 1996 to monitor the application of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and pilot projects implemented in all federal ministries – the overall legal framework for gender mainstreaming at the federal level was established in 2007 through a Gender-Mainstreaming Law. This law was designed to structurally integrate a gender dimension into all federal policies.
Gender-equality policies in Belgium are implemented by both federal and federate authorities, in their respective domains of competence and at their respective governance level. The 1994 Constitution stipulates that Belgium comprises:
- Three communities: the French Community, the Flemish Community and the German-speaking Community;
- Three regions: the Walloon Region, the Flemish Region and the Brussels-Capital Region;
- Four language regions: the French-speaking region, the Dutch-speaking region, the bilingual Brussels-Capital region and the German-speaking region. Every commune in the country belongs to one of these language regions.
The communities and regions are federate entities with their own political bodies. The language regions are simply political divisions of Belgian territory.
Thus, when considering gender-equality policies and governmental bodies in place, considerable differences exist among the various constituent parts of the Belgian State.