Visage de femme

Belgium adopts a national action plan to combat gender-based violence

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

The National Action Plan against Gender Violence (NAP) 2021-2025 was adopted by all Belgian governments on Friday 26 November 2021. Developed in consultation with civil society actors, it provides for more than 200 measures distributed among 17 ministries and 23 administrations. It aims to enable Belgium to honour the Istanbul Convention and "achieve real equality between men and women".

Led by Sarah Schlitz, Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunities and Diversity, this sixth NAP continues the work Belgium started in 2001 against gender-based violence. In line with the objectives of the Istanbul Convention, ratified by Belgium on March 14, 2016, it takes into account the remarks of experts as well as those of civil society, which "will continue to be associated with the implementation and evaluation of this plan", so the Minister.

The goal of “zero feminicide”

The most tragic endpoint of gender-based violence, feminicides are still a largely invisibilized reality in Belgium. To this day, there are still no official statistics of these crimes. The only existing count is that of the “Plateforme Féministe contre les Violences Faites aux Femmes (PFVFF)”, which is based on press articles and which has counted 18 cases of feminicide on the national territory during the year 2021.

In recognition of this reality, the Plan envisages to study this phenomenon qualitatively, as well as adapting the ways in which the police record data in order to obtain quantitatively accurate statistics. It also plans to intensify case follow-up, requiring police officers to regularly contact women who have filed a complaint to ensure that their situation is stable or to take action if necessary, as well as measures to provide 24-hour reception at police stations.

These administrative reforms will be accompanied by the creation of training courses for professionals in contact with people who have experienced gender-based violence. Although in 2020 an in-depth training on sexual and intra-family violence was made compulsory for all magistrates in Belgium, too few professionals are still sufficiently trained to detect signs of violence or to hear the victims. To this end, the Plan provides for the training of a wide range of professionals, including the police, doctors and psychosocial staff.

Other measures should be implemented to provide levers of action at different stages of the escalation of violence, such as the possibility of not showing the domestic violence call number on phone bills, the evaluation of a pilot project of a smartphone alert against harassment, which consists of victims having an alarm button via their smartphone wherever they are, or awareness-raising actions against cyber-harassment to remind people of existing sanctions and to "improve the reporting and repression of all forms of digital sexual violence".

Strengthening women's economic autonomy

The strengthening of women's economic autonomy is another pillar of action for the prevention of gender-based violence. Actions are being taken to this end, both by reforming the functioning of the maintenance claims department and by strengthening the involvement of the professional milieu in this cause. The Plan provides for new support measures for victims of violence and harassment in the workplace, through training, awareness-raising and information sessions. It also plans to develop new partnerships following the example of the CEASE project, in order to involve companies in the fight against violence between (ex)-partners.

POUR LA SOLIDARITÉ-PLS participated in the CEASE project, and is now reviving its network in order to involve a maximum number of job-providing structures, to train large numbers of employees and to help as many victims of domestic violence as possible.

To join the CEASE network, contact us!