Sex workers in the red-light district near Brussels North station went on strike on Wednesday in protest at the lack of safety in the area, following the murder of a young African woman. The woman’s body was found in the nearby street, apparently having sustained a number of knife wounds. She has been identified only as a Nigerian national named Eunice, born in Benin-City in 1995, according to De Morgen.
“The sex workers of the Quartier Nord have the feeling that they are even more unsafe if they are of African origin, as the victim was,” said a spokesperson for Utopis, the association representing the rights of sex workers. “They find they are not sufficiently protected by the authorities, and especially not by the commune of St-Josse.”
In fact, the red-light area takes in parts of St-Josse and Schaerbeek, and critics have argued that each of the communes has a tendency to shuffle problems off on each other. The victim in this case was found in the Rue Linné, which straddles Schaerbeek and St-Josse. In a previous attack in February – not fatal this time – another sex worker was attacked in Rue de la Rivière, in St-Josse.
As the investigation continues, Brussels minister for equal opportunities Bianca Debaets called for a coordinated policy on security from the three communes concerned. Speaking on the VRT, Debaets said she could do nothing in her current position as a minister in the regional government. “However this case shows how the mayors implement their own policies, with no sign of a structural approach,” she said. Schaerbeek mayor Bernard Clerfayt, in response, said St-Josse mayor Emir Kir had failed to carry out a number of agreed policy changes.