Nightlife Blackout: Demonstration held in Brussels against sexual violence in bars, clubs

Nightlife Blackout: Demonstration held in Brussels against sexual violence in bars, clubs
"Violator, it's up to you to be scared," a sign reads at a demonstration against sexual harassment. Credit: Belga

On Friday evening, the planned Nightlife Blackout took place in Brussels, with hundreds of people gathering in the centre of the city to protest against sexual violence in bars and clubs.

As part of that protest, multiple feminist organisations called for a boycott of the horeca sector in the wake of a staggering number of testimonies from women who say they were assaulted while on a night out in Brussels.

Between 400 and 500 people gathered in the city centre on Friday, Bruzz reports, with many saying that the owners of horeca establishments aren’t taking the problem seriously.

“The fact that different collectives came to speak is important, because it’s a struggle that’s supported by a lot of women,” Dounia Salimi of Balance Ton Bar told Bruzz.

Translation: In Brussels tonight, several thousand women are boycotting bars to denounce sexual assault in nightclubs. Many women claim to have been drugged and sexually abused in Brussels bars.

“The hospitality industry has not reacted sufficiently to the testimonies of sexual violence in the nightlife,” Anna Toumazoff of UFIA told Bruzz.

“I also can't believe that the catering managers didn’t know among themselves that such things happen.”

The organisers of the Nightlife Blackout had a clear message for the Brussels bar owners: “You can't count on our money anymore, as long as things don't change. If things don't change in the bars, we won't go there anymore,” to which the crowd chanted “A qui les bars? Les bars à nous!”

Politicians were called upon to act, as well.

“If things don't change in the streets, we won't go out anymore. If people keep bothering us on public transport, we won't use it. If it's not safe, don't count on us women,” the UFIA members said.

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On Friday, the Wallonia-Brussels Federation recognised five associations that work to combat violence against women, according to Belga News Agency. Each of those associations will receive a sum of €75,000 for five years, to be invested in the prevention and combating of domestic violence and sexism on the other.

The hotel and catering association Brussels By Night Federation announced on Friday that the members of the Brussels Night Council, which was set up at the beginning of last year, are taking steps to make Brussels nightlife more inclusive and safer. They say they hope to be able to take the first measures within the next month.

Similar movements are beginning to take place in other major European cities, like Paris and London.

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