The federal government is preparing an app to make it easier to report sexual harassment on the street, minister for equal opportunities Elke Sleurs has announced. Figures show that only three incidents were reported in Brussels from May 2015 to May 2016, all of them dropped by the prosecutor’s office without charges.
The law, passed in 2014, makes verbal sexual harassment in the street illegal. It was inspired by a documentary made by Flemish student Sofie Peeters as her final project to graduate from the RITCS film and theatre school in Brussels.
In Femme de la rue (Woman of the Street), she records the various approaches and remarks made by men as she walks in the Brussels neighbourhood where she lived at the time. The video was shown on TV stations on both sides of the language border, as well as being picked up by international media.
According to an investigation by De Morgen, 25 complaints were reported between the introduction of the law, in May 2014, and May 2015. Thirteen came from Flanders and three from Brussels.
According to Sleurs, women remain reluctant to report incidents of harassment, as they believe nothing will come of the complaint – a belief supported by no charges being filed in the three cases this year. The law is also considered by legal experts to be too vague and open to interpretation.
Sleurs has promised to review the law this year. In the meantime, her department plans an information campaign aimed at raising awareness of the effects of sexist behaviour and the options available to victims.
The campaign also includes a new digital app, based on a previous app for victims of homophobia. The app will allow victims of harassment to record incidents and possibly inform law enforcement at the same time.