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Feminicide to be officially recognised in Belgian law

10:40 31/10/2022

Belgium has decided to officially recognise feminicide, or the murder of women for gender-based reasons, as its own separate crime under homocide, according to the state secretary for gender equality.

Feminicide, sometimes called femicide, is often lumped in with domestic violence. But feminicide refers specifically to murder.

Secretary Sarah Schlitz (Ecolo) announced that the federal government has adopted a draft framework law to measure this crime.

Future legislation will set an official definition, allow for the collection of statistical data, improve the rights and protection of victims and provide for training of police and magistrates, according to a statement.

“This law on the prevention and fight against feminicide, gender-based homicide and the violence that precedes it is a first in Europe,” Schlitz said, although feminicide is already included in the criminal codes of Spain (2004) and Italy (2013), along with a dozen Latin American countries.

The Belgian bill distinguishes between several forms of this type of crime: intimate (committed by a woman's companion), non-intimate (a woman in a prostitution ring), indirect (as a result of a forced abortion or female genital mutilation) and gender-based homicide.

It also notes the different forms of violence that can precede this type of homicide, such as sexual violence, psychological violence and coercive control, and names special rights for victims of an attempted feminicide.

These include the right to be interviewed by a member of the police force of the gender of their choice, the right to be received in a suitable room offering the necessary privacy and discretion, the right to interact with a police officer trained in gender-based violence, and the right to receive information on existing protection measures.

The text also provides for the publication of an annual report on the subject, which will include statistics as well as the general characteristics of victims and perpetrators.

In order to identify the extent of the problem and its characteristics, the text provides for the publication of an annual report containing the main statistics, the characteristics of the victims, the perpetrators and the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator.

Until now, the task of recording feminicides was taken on by feminist associations in Belgium using the StopFeminicide blog.

By their estimates, at least 19 feminicides have taken place in Belgium in this year alone, with the 19th occurring last week when a 23-year-old Spanish woman was found stabbed to death in a flat on Rue du Midi in Brussels, and her ex-partner was arrested.

There were at least 22 feminicides in 2021, 27 in 2020, 24 in 2019, 39 in 2018 and 43 in 2017, according to StopFeminicide, totalling a minimum of 174 murders over the last six years.

People facing domestic violence can call the telephone number 0800 30 030 for assistance.

Written by Helen Lyons