Feminist collectives unite to tackle sexual violence in Brussels' nightlife

Feminist collectives unite to tackle sexual violence in Brussels' nightlife
Credit: Flowautelet/Twitter

A union between multiple feminist collectives has emerged as the result of cooperation between activists and organisations behind the movement against sexual violence in Brussels' bars and clubs, intended to ensure that structural change can be realised.

In the wake of a large number of testimonies shared by women regarding sexual violence on nights outs, including accounts of women being drugged and sexually assaulted by an employee at two bars in Ixelles, various female collectives decided more concrete action needed to be taken.

"I am working with many other feminist collectives and activists and we have formed this type of union," Maïté Meeûs, the 23-year-old woman who created the account “Balance ton bar” as a permanent online platform allowing victims to share their experiences, told The Brussels Times.

"We are discussing measures and deciding what steps we are going to take to try to make the political field shift on this issue, and to ensure other establishments make more changes," she said.

In the almost three weeks since the page was launched, Meeûs received hundreds and posted dozens of testimonies, however, she is determined to ensure the movement also results in action.

Practical and political change

Her efforts, in collaboration with those of other feminist organisations, have already resulted in some measures being implemented.

That includes measures regarding nightclub Fuse in the Marolles neighbourhood, which was mentioned in various testimonies on the Balance ton Bar page, one of which involved a witness account to an alleged rape that took place just two weeks ago.

In the testimony, the witness described seeing four feet in a bathroom cubicle in the women's toilets. "When we knocked on the door, we heard only a male voice responding. Because we were afraid of a possible rape, we spoke to the lavatory lady," who responded that it was the girl's fault for allowing a man into the cubicle.

"A few hours later we saw a girl at the toilet who was clearly drugged," the testimony stated.

"I am meeting with Fuse's management on Friday to discuss what happened in their club and why it is happening there," Meeûs said. Fuse, in response to the allegations, announced it wants to be part of a positive change to the city's nightlife culture.

The club announced in a statement on Instagram that it takes the accusations very seriously. It vowed to employ extra security teams to prevent such assaults after security staff were criticised for not responding properly, which Fuse called "unacceptable."

Credit: Fuse/Instagram

Fuse is also in the process of giving extra training to its staff on how to deal with sexual harassment, as well as recruiting additional staff for "Awareness Teams" that will be tasked with spotting incidents of sexual harassment.

"These people will be the first persons of contact for anyone who feels unsafe or has witnessed any form of a non-consensual situation, sexualised violence or any form of discrimination," the statement read, adding that a "safe space" will be created as well.

Finally, the club will also put up a blacklist at its entrance including pictures of people who are no longer welcome in the context of previous allegations.

Meanwhile, the testimonies being shared resulted in an emergency meeting between various politicians to speed up the implementation of concrete measures to combat such violence by improving the assistance provided to victims and reforming the Criminal Code when it comes to sexual offences.

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