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Undercover police to take on street harassment directly

17:02 08/03/2021

Undercover police officers plan to walk around Brussels to take on street harassment directly. As average citizens, female officers can respond to verbal intimidation directly, and male officers can assess if it is happening to women around them and immediately intervene.

Verbal sexual intimidation in public has been illegal in Belgium since 2014, but women who undergo it rarely report it to the police. The problem is that women cannot usually identify the man in question, as it is almost always a stranger. And the burden of proof is not in their favour.

In co-operation with the public prosecutor, Brussels police zones will now send out undercover agents to trap men who harass women on the street. Perpetrators risk a fine of anywhere from €50 to €1,000, or even be called to appear in court, risking jail time.

“This behaviour is so widespread that girls and women cannot make the same use of public space” as men can, Olivier Slosse of the Brussels-Ixelles police zone told VRT. Women are often restricting themselves “from going out at certain times, from taking public transport or from walking down certain streets. It’s a form of self-censorship, and that is an infringement on the rights of women and girls.”

According to recent research, 80% of women in Belgium have been intimidated or harassed in public. The problem is especially apparent in the larger cities. In Brussels, for instance, the figure is closer to 90%. Anyone who experiences street harassment is asked to report it to the local police.

Photo ©iStock/Getty Images Plus


Written by Lisa Bradshaw