Some 250 people demonstrated at the end of the afternoon yesterday (Thursday) in the Mont des Arts, in Brussels, in relation to violence against women. The event was part of the 20th anniversary of the European Women’s Lobby, celebrated earlier in the day at the Brussels Hôtel de Ville (city hall). Some 250 people who had been at the Hôtel de Ville took part in the demonstration. Amongst other things, the demonstration was aiming to provide exposure for both associations working in the field and to “survivors” of such violence.
The feminist colour purple dominated the event. Giant purple hands were raised in a plea to say “stop the violence.” White balloons had the female symbol. Some 300 purple flowers, given by the city, were laid on the ground to form the feminist symbol. A silent choreography symbolised the voices of victims who people did not believe. The crowd stooped and then rose with fists in the air. With arms crossed in front of their chests they called for the continued fight against rape. Lastly the demonstrators held hands as a sign of unity against violence.
The American feminist, Gloria Steinem, in particular thanked the European feminist movement for its solidarity towards US women, following Donald Trump’s election. The Campaigns Director for the European Women’s Lobby, Pierrette Pape argued, “Women speak about violence and it is time for society to accept that it must listen to them.” She went on, “To borrow one of the key phrases from Gloria Steinem’s career, we want a revolution, not simply reform.”
Some of the associations focused attention upon abortion. “The draft legislation upon the status of fetuses and giving such fetuses a name places the right to abortion in Belgium, under certain conditions, in danger.” This is the view of Susann Heenen-Wolff, one of the authors of Manifeste des 350 (a Belgian publication on abortion). She goes on, “The Minister for Health wishes to be stricter in prohibiting family planning centres from distributing the morning-after pill. You can sense the wider influence of the Catholic church on this issue.” She is calling for the signature of the petition to remove abortion from the Belgian Criminal Code. At present the petition only has 8,000 signatures.
On sexual violence, Pierrette Pape emphasises that “a man rapes a woman every eight minutes. We must place the responsibility on the given man, and speak about the issue and the culture of rape.”