Thursday, 10 December 2020
An online event organised by Brussels feminist collective Imazi.Reine on Thursday evening sparked controversy, after it became clear that white people were not allowed to take part.
According to the initial description of the virtual discussion on Facebook, called ‘Pour une convergence des luttes non consensuelle’, the event was “only opened to queer women of colour,” and was intended to be “unmixed, without cisgender-heterosexual men, and without white people.”
This provoked the ire of some people, particularly as the event was supported by equal.brussels.
On Twitter, politicians such as Youssef Lakhloufi of the francophone liberal MR party, and even current federal Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi, called attention to the event, and called the fact that white people were not allowed “problematic.”
— Sammy Mahdi (@SammyMahdi) December 10, 2020
In response, the organisation stated on their social that the intention of the event was to create a safe space, where people who are usually marginalised could come together to communicate about their experiences.
The description of the event has since been changed, and now states that it is “primarily aimed at women and queer people of colour,” following a request from equal.brussels, according to Brussels Secretary of State for Equal Opportunities Nawal Ben Hamou.
“It has been reworded so that it is no longer exclusive. This is a founding principle of the 2016 law against discrimination,” her cabinet told La Capitale.
Patrick Charlier, the director of the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, Unia, said that “safe spaces” such as the one proposed by this event, “offers a framework that allows some people who feel in situations of oppression to speak more easily,” reports BX1.
Faced with this controversy, the Imazi.Reine collective stands firm on its positions and recalls why this distinction was made. “We don’t explain why non-mixed meetings are necessary. We hold them, they do us good and then that’s it,” the group stated on social media.
“Non-mixed meetings are a tool for survival and well-being that we need. We create these spaces out of necessity and not out of exclusion,” they added. “Once, we wanted to be understood, now we just want to be at peace.”
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The municipality of Saint-Gilles, which initially supported the event, has requested that the references of its support for the event were withdrawn.
“All our initiatives are aimed at getting our inhabitants, who come from very different backgrounds, to get to know each other and meet each other,” the municipality stated in a press release.
“There will never be any question of excluding this or that category of the population from the events that the commune organises or supports,” it added.
The Brussels Times