Belgium adopts historic law against femicide

Belgium adopts historic law against femicide
National demonstration against violence against women organised by the Mirabal platform, in Brussel, Sunday 27 November 2022. Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

The Belgian Chamber of Representatives adopted on Thursday a law for the prevention against femicide which aims to curtail violence against women in Belgium.

"This is a historic turning point in the fight against gender violence in Belgium", according to a press release from the Secretary of State for Gender Equality Marie-Colline Leroy, who closely collaborated with her predecessor, Sarah Schlitz on the bill.

The law enshrines a legal definition for femicide, which is understood as the intentional killing of women because of their gender. It also establishes enhanced protections for victims of gender-based violence, reports Belga News Agency.

The text would also ensure the collection of statistics on the phenomenon of femicide and provide training for police officers and magistrates to deal with cases of violence against women.

Tweet translation: Immensely proud: the Belgian Parliament has just passed the #StopFeminicide law that I initiated and supported with @mcollineleroy. A historic collective victory, the fruit of hard work by civil society, feminist activists, victims' families, progressive elected representatives, ...

Many feminist associations gathered at the Belgian Parliament on Thursday to celebrate the adoption of the law, which was drafted with the support of grassroots associations in the field.

"It's important to fight, but it's also important to celebrate the victories," said co-author of the law and Liège deputy, Sarah Schlitz of the occasion.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been at least 17 victims of femicide in Belgium, according to the blog "Stop Feminicide" which monitors media reports of femicides. In 2022, there were at least 24 victims.

Stop Feminicide estimates that roughly two femicides take place each month in Belgium.

A broad scope of violence

The new law recognises different dimensions of femicides. According to UN data, these crimes are overwhelmingly the result of intimate violence, meaning that the victims are killed by current or past romantic partners, fathers or other relatives.

The law adopted by the Chamber recognises intimate femicide, as well as non-intimate (murder perpetrated by a third party, such as a sex worker being killed by a client) and indirect crimes (death as the result of a forced abortion or genital mutilation, for example).

Additionally, it also includes the notion of a gender-based homicide, which would apply to crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals.

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The Belgian Council of Francophone Women (CFFB) welcomed the adoption of the law and the various forms of violence considered in the text and urged the government to take decisive action.

"The Council asks the Federal Government to deploy all the necessary means to ensure that the police and justice can effectively provide victims with all the tools that could save their lives, regardless of their police zone or their judicial district," the association wrote in a statement.

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