Reform of the criminal justice system, particularly in the context of sexual violence, was demanded on Wednesday by various experts in an open letter published in De Morgen. Julie Van Espen’s murder illustrated that Belgium was not fighting hard enough against violence inflicted on women, the letter warned.
Every year, 75,000 women fall victim to sexual violence in Belgium. Annually, 8,000 reports of assault or rape are dealt with by the courts. But of these cases, barely 900 result in convictions.
Belgium punishes forgery more severely than rape, Rosa – the knowledge centre for gender and feminism – stated in an open letter, also signed by Flemish organisations Furia, an inclusive body of women, and knowledge centre for gender and ethnicity Ella.
Child Focus, in the words of CEO Heidi De Pauw, is also lending its support to the mobilisation: “The police and judicial authorities dealing with these matters also have to cope with a scandalous lack of personnel and cannot handle the large caseload,” De Pauw regretted. She demanded that the criminal justice system should be “radically reformed” in the face of these sexual offences, calling for harsher penalties as well as measures to target repeat offenders.
Experts are saying the problem should be placed at the top of the political agenda. “Let us make use of the justified anger regarding this sad affair in order finally to take the right of girls, women, boys and men to security seriously,” Purnelle concluded.