Police in Liège use new technique to catch catcallers

Police in Liège use new technique to catch catcallers
An anti-sexual harassment campaign in Belgium which translates as 'leave girls alone.' Credit: Ugo Realfonzo / The Brussels Times

An overwhelming majority of women and girls in Belgian cities have been sexually harassed on the street. To catch perpetrators, the police in Liège adopted a new technique, which so far has resulted in 51 reports, Le Soir reported.

In short, the technique consists of female police officers who are followed by male colleagues while touring the streets in civilian clothing until they face offensive comments or gestures. Their male colleagues then intervene.

Due to the success of the operation, the method is set to be copied in other Belgian cities including Ghent, Brussels and Namur.

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Street harassment is an ongoing issue in Belgium.  A Plan International survey from 2019 showed that 91% of 3,000 women and girls polled have been subject to sexual harassment, but only 6% filed a complaint.

Not normal behaviour

Belgium launched an awareness campaign which seeks to encourage women to file more complaints and to let witnesses know how they can intervene if they see sexual harassment on the street. However, it has proved not to be enough, so new tools are needed to combat harassment.

Street harassment makes women feel unsafe in public spaces yet experiences of street harassment and abuse "continue to be covered up, diminished, ignored, or normalised", one UN report wrote.

Another UN study focused on negative notions of masculinity.  "Sexual harassment is almost considered a natural part of male behaviour and we need to transform the notion that it's natural," said Safe Cities UN Coordinator Yeliz Osman.

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