On 29 June 2023, Belgium adopted a law to combat feminicide called "Stop feminicide". This framework law aims to provide Belgium with a set of instruments for protecting victims of feminicide and for measuring these crimes.
According to a press release "This is a historic turning point in the fight against gender violence in Belgium".
What does the law contain?
· A definition of feminicide and the violence that precedes it (sexual violence, psychological violence and coercive control);
· A distinction between four types of feminicide:
o Intimate femicide, by a partner
o Non-intimate feminicide, by a third party (a sex worker by a client, for example)
o Indirect feminicide, occurring after acts of violence (forced abortion or genital mutilation, for example)
o Gender-based homicide (a transgender man who dies in the context of partner violence);
· Data collection and two publications, including an annual quantitative report containing the main statistics relating to feminicide, the characteristics of the victims, the perpetrators and the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator - and a qualitative report on feminicide and gender-based homicide highlighting their frequency, conviction rates and the effectiveness of the measures taken to implement the Istanbul Convention;
· Better care for victims of gender-based violence and training for the police to better identify the violence that precedes feminicide and protect victims:
o Victims of attempted feminicide will benefit from new rights, such as the right to be interviewed by a member of the police of the gender of their choice, to be received in a suitable room offering the necessary discretion by a police officer trained in gender-based violence, and to receive information on existing protection measures: anti-seizure alarm, temporary ban on residence, ban on location or contact, non-communicable address, etc.
o In order to help the police and the judiciary to better assess the risks incurred by a victim, or the dangerousness of the perpetrators, the police and the judiciary will have to use a risk assessment and management tool during the investigation, "a process that is almost unique in the world", according to Ms Sara Schlitz.
o Particular attention will be paid to feminicide and the cycle of violence that precedes it as part of existing training courses for police officers and magistrates.
· The law creates a Scientific Committee, which will analyse feminicide and gender-based homicide based on individual cases.
What does this law not contain?
Belgium indeed made a historical step with this law, however several practical aspects have not been tackled in the text concerning the prevention phase or the accompanying phase. The following steps are equally needed to tackle the problem:
Structural funding to non-profit organisations working to prevent violence (for example self-defense, verbal defense classes in FR, NL, EN and other languages);
Compulsory, regular training for all public servants and staff in the psycho-medical-social, legal and education sectors. This training should enable them to understand the continuum of violence against women and children, the mechanisms of violence between partners and how to intervene appropriately;
Investment in new protected homes with affordable rent for victims;
Psychological treatment to help healing from trauma;
Accompanying measures to victims (including training and education to become financially independent, assistance in childcare);
Communication campaigns targeting men (violence is not a private matter and self-defense is not an individual act).
Press release of the Secretary of State: https://leroy.belgium.be/fr/vote-de-la-loi-stopf%C3%A9minicide
Blog on the latest victims of feminicides in Belgium: https://stopfeminicide.blogspot.com/
Prévenir les violences, Garance Asbl: https://www.garance.be/ressource/prevenir-plus-que-guerir-les-violences/