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Expat discusses women's safety with Brussels parliamentarians

Illustration picture shows the Jubelpark - Parc du Cinquantenaire after a renovation in Brussels, Thursday 05 March 2020. (BELGA PHOTO LOAN SILVESTRE)
06:02 25/05/2021

The Barcelona-born lawyer who narrowly avoided being raped in Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels at the start of the year will speak in the Brussels parliament on Tuesday about her campaign against violence towards women.

Carla R, who has been living in Brussels since October last year, started a petition to tackle the problem of sexual violence against women shortly after the attempted assault at the end of January. The petition now has over 12,000 signatures.

She will present the petition and discuss her recommendations for increasing the safety of women via a video link from Spain. "I want to ask the members present, regardless of their political party, to guarantee long-term measures,” she said.

“I know that in the Parc du Cinquantenaire they have improved lighting and cut down trees for better visibility, but that is not enough. The measures need to be more comprehensive. They should not be just about a neighbourhood.

"We need to act on the education of boys and on legislation. The man who raped and killed Julie in Antwerp years ago was known to police and had previous convictions for rape. It's outrageous."

The Catalan lawyer had been shocked by the response of the police at the time of the attempted rape who told her that assaults were common in the neighbourhood.

Carla feels that the efforts made since her attack still focus too much on the park itself and she wants more extensive and long-term solutions to be found.

"Politicians often focus on short-term solutions, but that doesn't change the underlying problem," she added. "The measures taken to improve safety in Parc du Cinquantenaire have only served to move the location of the crime."

Carla has also held discussions with Brussels state secretary for equal opportunities Nawal Ben Hamou. "She told me that Belgium was looking at Spanish legislation,” she said. “For me, there are also things to improve in Spanish legislation, but it is true that there is a specialised Tribunal for the Protection of Women in Spain that does not exist in Belgium.

"Things like education and legislation take time, so I probably won't see the effects of it myself, but I'll do it for future generations."

Written by Nick Amies