Brussels: Two complaints about street harassment daily

Some 449 complaints have been made by women and gay men about street harassment and intimidation in Brussels. Very often, the public prosecutor’s office does nothing about these reports. The perpetrators are usually only punished when caught red-handed and made to pay a so-called GAS-fine.

Collective shock was felt in the capital after student Sofie Peeters let her documentary “Femme de la Rue” loose on its inhabitants. Ms Peeters managed to portray the struggle with intimidation in Brussels women face daily. Another “popular” group of verbal abuse were gay men.

While it was fairly easy to show the problem, it seems a lot harder to deal with it effectively, according to data published by the daily ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’. In the first 8 months of 2014, 449 complaints about intimidation were made, but most of them aren’t followed through.

“Victims do not longer accept this kind of behaviour”, chief of police Christian De Coninck stated in Het Laatste Nieuws. “All complaints are sent to the public prosecutor’s office, but no one does anything about them.”

The only way of punishing these perpetrators is when they are caught red-handed. This happened 18 times in the last year. The perpetrators were given a GAS-fine between 50 and 250 euros.

Even though prosecution is rare in these cases, the city does call for victims to report these crimes. Mr De Coninck: “At least this gives us a better view on how, when and where to patrol.”