An unusual confrontation filmed with the regional Flemish Parliament has sparked controversy over childcare in Belgium.
During a session of parliament, MP Jean-Jacques De Gucht (Open VLD) was interrupted by the crying of a young child. “I find it particularly bizarre that you take your children with you to parliament,” the politician complained.
In recent months, parents have been coming to the Flemish Parliament galleries, along with their children, as part of protest action launched by the Kind en Gezin (Child and Family) which aims to protest about a lack of places in crèches in Flanders.
Typisch. In plaats van met oplossingen voor de crisis in de kinderopvang, krijgen ouders verwijten naar hun hoofd. We zouden onze kinderen graag naar de opvang, maar die is helaas gesloten vandaag. @JJDeGucht https://t.co/PTN8YUb8pe— Kind en Gezien (@Kind_en_gezien) January 18, 2023
Visibly irritated by the crying infant in the public gallery, De Gucht stopped the debate to address the parents of the child. While the President of the Flemish Parliament, Liestbeth Homans (N-VA) asked the Flemish liberal politician to continue the debate, De Gucht’s complaints received applause from politicians from the N-VA, Open VLD, and Vlaams Belang parties.
“(The crying) always does something to me. I used to have that regularly in my living room or in the bedroom,” De Gucht joked, also adding that perhaps his annoyance at the crying was his “fault.”
The politician’s outburst has received a mixed reaction online. In response to the footage, the Kind en Gezin collective claimed that De Gucht had missed the point of the protest.
“Typical. Instead of offering solutions to the crisis in childcare, parents are being blamed. We would like to take our children to daycare, but unfortunately it is closed today,” the group responded.
The group’s complaints were also echoed by Lise Vandecasteele (PVDA), Flemish opposition politician, who said that De Gucht had acted with “disdain.”
“Childcare is in crisis, solutions are not forthcoming, the minister is completely deaf, but what does Open VLD not understand? That parents of the crisiskabinet (crisis cabinet) take their children to parliament to send a signal,” she said on Twitter.
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Other online commenters were critical of Kind en Gezin’s tactic to bring children into the parliament, citing them as a distraction to ordinary parliamentary business.
Currently, there are no rules about visitors to the parliament bringing their children with them, so long as they are well-behaved.