Belgian government takes action on violence within the family
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Belgian government takes action on violence within the family

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Yesterday’s meeting of government ministers decided to initiate a plan of action to tackle the problem of violence within the family.

The proposal came from Sarah Schliz, secretary of state for gender equality, equal opportunities and diversity, and is based on research which showed that during the first lockdown in the spring, there was an increase in cases of domestic violence, as family members forced into close proximity with no place to go to let off steam resorted to violence against those within their close circle.

Compared to the period before the lockdown, calls to the helpline for victims of domestic violence increased threefold. There was also an increase in the number of complaints to the police and other authorities.

The regular weekly meeting of government ministers which took place on Friday approved an action plan presented by Schliz. It includes: a study on the incidence of intra-family violence in the period of the lockdowns; the extension of the operation of a chatline for reports of domestic violence until at least 30 June 2021; a national information campaign on family and gender-related violence; and the possibility for hotel and guest-house owners to make accommodation available for victims of domestic violence to take emergency refuge.

We will not let you down, we are by your side,” said Schlitz after the meeting, addressing victims. “This violence is unacceptable.”

The measure also includes an effort to remind police and justice systems that domestic violence is and remains a priority for the government, instructing them to ensure follow-up care of victims to check on the situation once a complaint has been made. That would include measures to ensure enforcement of any order for the perpetrators of domestic violence to leave the family home.

It also addresses the medical profession.

“We wish to remind [doctors] that there has been an increase in domestic violence during this period of confinement, to draw their attention to this risk as well as to the various reporting codes that exist, and that they can activate them when they notice violence against their patients,” Schlitz said.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times