HandsAway: Brussels wants to use bait women to catch harassers

New Europe - Dan Alexe - Contributing Editor

Nearly nine out of ten women in Brussels have already been confronted with some form of sexual harassment, but Brussels residents will soon be able to report such incidents via a special app.

No less than 88 % of the women surveyed have already experienced a form of sexual harassment. One in three still experiences negative consequences every day. This is shown by a study by Ghent University at the request of the Brussels secretary of state for Equal Opportunities Bianca Debaets (CD & V). Half of the women surveyed were confronted with physical violence.
This makes Brussels worse than in previous European figures. It showed that 30 % of women had to deal with street violence and 60 % were victims of intimidation.
‘There is too little respect for women’, Debaets told the Belgian newspaper De Tijd. ‘If women get sexually insulted insults on the streets, that is not a minor crime. I am horrified by that term. The research shows that women often still avoid certain neighbourhoods years later or adjust their behaviour because of some sexual verbal violence of the past. ‘
Earlier Debaets launched the awareness campaign Meld Meld, which encouraged women in cases of street intimidation to file a complaint with the police. In March she will go one step further when HandsAway Brussels becomes available, an app similar to the successful French app HandsAway. Women and men who are harassed on the street or in public transport can indicate what and where something happened. This can be done via a simple click to keep the registration as low as possible.
The app must go further than collecting numbers. Victims can share their experiences and ask bystanders to help. Those who witness an incident on the street can also report this via the app.

In addition, Debaets also calls for more attention for this type of violence. ‘Why do not we use bait women to catch and punish perpetrators? It works in the Netherlands, why not in Brussels?’

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