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New Belgian law makes sexual harassment illegal

11:45 14/03/2014

Federal minister of equal opportunities, Joelle Milquet, has announced a new law that will make sexual harassment illegal in Belgium. Under the new legislation, it will be a criminal offence to insult a person based on gender or to make intimidating sexual remarks in the street. The new law also aims to tackle online sexism promulgated on social media sites like Facebook.

The government was prompted to take action in 2012 after Sofie Peeters, a student at Brussels’ RITS film school, made a documentary titled Femme de la rue, which showed via a hidden camera how she was sexually harassed and intimidated by men in the streets of downtown Brussels.

While Belgium already has laws to prevent sexual discrimination, Milquet decided that there was need for a wider range of powers to stop harassment in the street.

The new law, which is expected to come into force next month, makes it a crime to “make a gesture or statement that is clearly intended to express contempt for one or more people of a different gender on the basis of their gender or to make them appear inferior or reduce them to their sexual dimension in a way that constitutes a serious attack on their dignity”.

The court can impose a prison sentence of up to one year or a maximum fine of €1,000 for anyone found guilty. Critics argue that it is unclear what sort of actions will be covered by the new law.

photo courtesy

Written by Derek Blyth