Brussels names street after murdered sex worker to draw attention to femicide

Brussels names street after murdered sex worker to draw attention to femicide
Eunice Osayande was murdered on Rue Linné. Credit: Belga

A new street in Brussels will be named after murdered Nigerian sex worker Eunice Osayande to draw attention to all the women who became victims of human trafficking, sexual violence and femicide.

The street that will carry her eponym will connect the Quai de Willebroeck and the Quai des Péniches, nearby the North Station, behind which Osayande was murdered in June 2018.

"Inclusive feminism is about the rights and struggles of women at every social rank. 42% of women between the ages of 16 and 69 have at least once experienced physical sexual violence," said Ans Persoons, Alderman for Urban Planning responsible for toponymy.

"Among sex workers, the percentage is much higher. The struggle to bring these hallucinatory high figures down deserves more attention and urgency. And that is precisely why Eunice Osayande is being given a street today," she added.

The move is part of a wider ongoing project in the city which has seen Brussels' street names being feminised.

"Until now, we have always chosen striking - yet often forgotten - women with exceptional talent or a remarkable achievement. But for me, feminism is not only about women who excel," Persoons explained.

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Five years ago, Osayande came into the hands of a gang of men who promised her a brighter future and work in Europe, leading her, alongside some other girls, to begin her difficult journey to Belgium, which included crossing over to Italy on a rubber boat, and being raped multiple times.

Upon arrival in Brussels, she was immediately forced into prostitution and had to pay her pimps €45,000 for the smuggling, as well as paying rent for a filthy flat where she lived together with several other victims.

In June 2018, she was stabbed with 17 knives by a disgruntled customer - a 17-year-old man - who was arrested two weeks later. In January this year, the four people involved in her smuggling were sentenced to between 33 months and four years in prison.

A year following her death, her colleagues gathered to commemorate her during a silent march and pleaded with the municipality for better working conditions.

Maxime Maes of UTSOPI, the union of sex workers that was closely involved with the case, welcomes the tribute to a colleague that "was brutally taken from us".

"Sex workers are often forgotten, this time it will not be the case," Maes said.

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