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Ghent pledges action against pub rape culture

The City of Ghent intends to consult with the police, hospitality and Meldet, the organisation that collects reports of sexual violence in the city.  The move comes after 600 people joined a demo on Sunday to call for attention for the victims of two reported rape cases linked to the city’s nightlife.

“We no longer feel safe” one of the demo’s protesters told VRT yesterday.

The city authorities acknowledge there is a problem. Sofie Bracke is alderman for hospitality in Ghent and believes more can be done: “We will examine how talks involving the mayor, the police, hospitality, Meldet and some of the organisers of the protest march can be started. We need to see if we can do more.  Do we need to look at how bars are set out and avoid dark corners?  Training on offer to pub landlords needs to be expanded.  A broader public awareness campaign is needed.  It’s about setting and respecting limits”. 

Ms Bracke says Ghent is already doing quite a bit.  She points to a charter in which public awareness play a big role.  Training sessions are held for pub staff to help them deal with drug use, racism and excessive alcohol use: “But we should also notice when women are harassed” she says.

The alderman calls for victims to report incidents. 

“Too many incidents remain under the radar.  Report incidents big and small! There are incidents of people following one another or feeling up people.  It’s important to report these incidents because they make people feel unsafe. In this way we will have an easier time establishing the context when something happens”.

In response to requests from the demonstrators for the police to get better funding she says the police have already received extra means to deal with sexual violence but that it will remain a priority.

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