While gender equality is still an unachieved reality for many women, much legal attention has recently gone to struggles that transgender and non-binary persons face in present day society. Many among those persons call for a profound reform or even abolishment of gender as a legal category. Focus has therefore been seemingly shifting from gender equality towards gender autonomy. One might expect feminism to embrace gender autonomy since it essentially aims to overthrow patriarchy as a legal and social principle for all individuals. Nevertheless, considerable tensions have arisen between feminist and trans inclusionary groups. Given the skepticism displayed by various feminist movements towards gender autonomy, the point of this project is to uncover which immediate implications would follow the legal implementation of gender autonomy for the advancement of women’s equality, both in terms of substantive outcomes and on a procedural level. Moreover, it will analyse how relevant institutional stakeholders (caseworkers at gender equality bodies, feminist and queer civil society organisations) approach achieving gender equality through law and how they perceive both gender autonomy, and its potential impact.
The discussion on how to sensibly implement gender autonomy in law is a pressing issue in Belgium. In nothing less than a game changing judgment, the Constitutional Court recently found the absence of any recognition of non-binary genders in law unconstitutional. The federal legislature must now act, preferably on sound normative bases.