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Rise in homophobic attacks in Brussels

14:45 06/07/2024

The Brussels prosecutor’s office has confirmed that it has seen an uptick in reports of homophobic attacks in the capital, notably in the Brussels-Midi and West police zones.

The police departments in those areas “have forwarded us several complaints about such acts”, prosecutor's spokesperson Yasmina Vanoverschelde said.

"The victims were contacted through a dating app, but when they arrived at the rendez-vous point, they were attacked by several people who scolded and beat them.

"Some victims were also robbed and extorted. The reports are currently being processed by the Brussels public prosecutor's office. The reports are currently being processed by the Brussels public prosecutor's office."

Le Soir reports that there are at least five complaints for attacks alleged to have happened in the second half of June.

Rainbowcops, a department within the police that, among other things, counsels victims of homophobia and transphobia, confirmed that it has received more frequent reports of aggression towards people from the LGBTQIA+ community.

The total reports for such crimes for the five-year period from 2019 to 2024 is 217, with 67 instances of a person being physically assaulted. Yet only 29 official complaints were filed during that same period, barely 13% of cases.

“That’s why, with our training, we encourage police officers to receive victims in a proper manner, and to know well what they’re talking about, and also to let the victim talk so that that person feels comfortable and can explain what happened and how it happened,” said Luc Martin of Rainbowcops.

But Martin said that better-trained police alone are not enough, especially when victims are not openly gay within their community and take pains to hide it.

“[These victims] often dare not file a complaint because they’re afraid that everything will then be revealed,” Martin said.

Martin stressed the importance of filing police reports, not only to track down the perpetrator, but also to bring the underlying motive into focus.

“Since 2022, a suspect risks being punished more severely if discrimination based on origin, orientation, gender or disability is the motive for a crime,” said Vanoverschelde of the Brussels public prosecutor's office.

“This is why we need to train our police officers so that they include in the official report the necessary elements that prove the hateful nature of the crime.”