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“The Belgian Council of Ministers has approved a proposal for a law which will explicitly include sexism as a punishable offense. The legislation also makes it possible for victims of sexual harassment or similar harassment in public spaces to claim for damages on a flat-rate basis. Moreover, victims will now be able to start a civil procedure without having to first appear in court. [...] Current gender legislation is limited to punishing a single person for incitement to discrimination, violence or hate. From now on, the discrimination itself will be punishable.”
Source: De Morgen, 12/07/2013
We APPLAUD this development in Belgian law! It’s a step towards creating a world free from discrimination and harassment. Of course it remains to be seen how this will work in practice. Rape and sexual harassment are already punishable (by law), yet in Belgium only 4% of perpetrators are convicted, while throughout the European Union 1 in 2 women still face sexual harassment in the workplace.
Hollaback! Brussels therefore hopes that this new law is just the first step within a wider plan of action. For on the one hand, of course complaints and accusations have to be handled properly. But on the other hand, if we want to see real change, and put an end to street harassment once and for all, this will only happen by means of education and initiatives to make people more aware of the issues of harassment and sexism in general. For this reason we feel the government should put in place more practical measures (not just legal ones). And above all, offer REAL support to the victims!
Your Hollaback! Brussels team: Jo, Anna, Julie, Quentin, Angelika and Ingrid
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