The new president of the Belgian League for Human Rights is Olivia Venet, elected unopposed at the organisation’s general assembly on Saturday. Venet, a criminal lawyer, takes over from Alexis Deswaef, who has served three two-year terms. She is the third woman to preside the organisation in its century-long existence. She previously chaired the League’s justice committee for several years.
“Of course I’m familiar with the main themes,” she told the RTBF. “I think we still have a lot to do, and we have to remain extremely firm in our role, which is the protection of the fundamental rights of one and all.”
Included in those, in the spirit of the times, she explained, are gender equality, protection against discrimination and the fight against discrimination.
“I believe women have to put themselves forward,” she told RTBF radio. “I also think the League allows that, which shows it’s capable of moving forward.”
That position will be important to the campaign to change the name of the organisation, in French, from Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (Rights of Man) to Ligue des Droits Humains (Human Rights).
“This is a thought that’s been going around within the League for some time. It’s more than simply symbolic. I think the notion of Rights of Man invokes the image of a white man of a certain age. A league of human rights suggests something much more collective and inclusive. All of our battles point in that direction.”