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Demonstrators gather in five Belgian cities to protest violence against women

Minister Karine Lalieux (L) pictured during an awareness action organised by Mirabal against the violence towards women, Sunday 22 November 2020 in Brussels. (BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK)
06:19 23/11/2020

Some 250 people gathered in front of the central train station in Brussels on Sunday to demonstrate against violence against women. Similar actions took place in Ghent, Antwerp, Liège and Mons, three days before the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November.

The demonstration was organised by Mirabal Belgium, a platform of associations against women's violence. The organisations say violence against women has increased in the public space, in the privacy of homes and on social media during the coronavirus pandemic with women finding it harder than ever to escape their aggressor under previous and current restrictions.

The demonstrators, mostly female, gathered on the Carrefour de l'Europe in front of the station carrying banners and protest signs with messages such as "Stop the abuse of power of men", "We are the cry of women without a voice", "My body, my choice, my freedom" and "Terror hides at home". 21 purple crosses were also laid in the square, symbolising the number of victims of femicide recorded in 2020.

Mirabal points out that the situation of women living in poverty, with a disability, or in a precarious housing situation is even more dangerous. Measures have been taken at the community and regional level such as the installation of hotlines and the creation of shelters, but these are temporary solutions, says Mirabal. The platform called on the authorities to pursue a proactive and persistent policy from the authorities that combats all forms of violence against women.

"One in three women in our country is experiencing violence”, said Magda De Meyer of the Women's Council. “That's a plague that has to stop. Policies are being taken here and there, but there is no coordinated plan. We really need such a plan so that tomorrow or next week we don’t have to face the next victim of femicide."

The government has recently adopted the plan against domestic violence proposed by the secretary of state for equal opportunity and gender, Sarah Schlitz. Mirabal demands that government action goes further than this and plans more demonstrations in the run-up to the launch of the United Nations’ Orange the World campaign on 25 November and throughout the 16 days of activism that follow.

Written by Nick Amies