An extraordinary budget of €610,000 has been allocated to combatting the growing issue of sexual harassment in the capital's nightlife, the government announced on Wednesday.
Following the increasing number of testimonies of women who experience sexual violence in the city's bars and restaurants, and subsequent demonstrations across Brussels against these incidents, the government consulted the Brussels Nightlife Council to discuss the systemic problem and the incident that kickstarted the movement.
An action plan involving the Brussels Region and the French and Flemish Community Commission was then presented to the government. This will now be implemented with the help of the €610,000 budget.
"All nightlife stakeholders share the same goal: to make 21st-century nightlife more inclusive, safe and enjoyable," the Brussels Night Council wrote in its proposal to the government.
"In nightlife, everyone must be able to move freely and be themselves without risking harassment, racism, violence, unintentional drug-taking, etc."
It added that the nightlife industry as a whole must work towards a safer nightlife and respect all values of respect in order to "make nightlife more enjoyable and pleasant for everyone."
Working from all angles
The measures set out in the plan are based on four pillars: training, raising awareness, prevention and victim support. These will be developed in close consultation with all relevant authorities and associations.
The plan includes an online training course, for which €100,000 of the budget will be set aside, on how nightlife businesses can train "all nightlife workers on a large scale and in an appropriate manner how they can best contribute to women's safety."
Stickers will also be placed in various locations with information about available support services and what bystanders can do when witnessing sexual harassment or violence, highlighting the steps they can take.
"Victim support services are still too little known and too little publicised. This document will be widely distributed and displayed in nightlife venues, as well as in places frequented by people affected by nightlife harassment," said Nawal Ben Hamou, State Secretary for Equal Opportunities.
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€200,000 will be allocated to existing projects and to speed up new ones. in the second half of 2022, a general awareness campaign about harassment will be launched by two organisations (receiving a total of €300,000 in funding).
"Harassment is a persistent problem in Brussels, not only in nightlife but also in public spaces, at work and on social media. Raising awareness among the Brussels population in general, is therefore essential," stressed Rudi Vervoort, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region.