Man becomes first person convicted of sexism under new Belgian law
A man has been convicted of sexism in a public place for the first time under a new law in Belgium.
A court in Brussels fined him €3,000 for insulting a police officer because of her gender, Le Soir reported.
It comes as France prepares to create an offence of street harassment, described as “sexist and sexual outrage”.
The Belgian case involved a driver who was stopped for breaking the highway code. The young man – who has not been identified – insulted the police officer because of her gender, the court heard.
He was reported to have said she would be better off doing a job “adapted to women”, in a scene witnessed by several other people.
The driver was found guilty of three charges: contempt of a police officer, making threats and sexist remarks in public, and a serious violation of another person’s dignity because of her gender.
He was warned that if he failed to pay the fine, a prison term of a month would be imposed.
“This is the first time we have used this law to prosecute someone,” said Gilles Blondeau, spokesman for the public prosecutor's office. “It is quite common for people arrested by the police to insult and threaten. But to personally blame a policewoman because of her sex is different.
“It was a good case to test this law: a concrete and very clear case, with many witnesses. This is obviously not always the case.”
The law arose out of a widespread social debate in Belgium in 2012, after a documentary entitled Women of the Street revealed commonplace sexism in public. It showed a woman being insulted and receiving unsolicited proposals and hisses as she walked in Brussels.
Under the law, any behaviour expressing “contempt towards a person, because of their sexuality” or treating a person as “inferior or as reduced essentially to their sexual dimension“, which entails a serious attack on their dignity is punishable by up to a year in prison and/or a fine.
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