high level Round Table on "Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls"

date: 04 March 2013


“Ladies and Gentlemen, honourable members of the commission,

I have the honour, as Secretary of State for Equal Opportunities in the Brussels-Capital Region, to inform you on the progress the Region made on women’s rights/elimination of violence against women and girls”.

Belgium, Brussels-Capital Region:
Bruno De Lille, Secretary of State for Equal Opportunities in the Brussels-Capital Region. This competence is exercised in tandem with the ”Equal Opportunities” cell of the regional administration. Work on this subject is three-pronged: legislative, educational and awareness actions, monitoring beyond the scope of the Region (e.g.: Beijing Platform).
Setting up actions against violence is handled by regional coordination with regard to violence between partners and domestic violence.

The text below covers actions considered good practice as well as weak spots in the promotion of the status of women and fighting violence against women.

• Campaign aimed at young people:

Following a study published in the French Community, I was shocked to learn that 9 youngsters out of 10, i.e. 90%, were already exposed to violence in their relationships while revealing that 72% of them admitted to being violent in their relationships. This shows an unsettling trivialisation of violence in the relationships of young people. This topic has become a priority.

Adolescence is a period in life which is highly significant for learning processes and discovering love. Therefore, it is potentially synonym for fragility and vulnerability. The youngsters experiment with changes in behaviour; they live happy moments but are also faced with problems and disappointments. It sometimes happens in a relationship that acts of violence are committed or tolerated without even being aware of it or believing firmly that they are proofs of love or signs of engagement in the relationship. This violence may be very subtle and difficult to detect, even by the immediate entourage. However, the serious consequences which may result from these acts are substantial for the perpetrators as well as the victims. Therefore, preventing and making all young people aware of the negative effects of violence and, above all, positive effects of harmonious and balanced relationships remains essential.

During this campaign, several kinds of violence were addressed:

-Physical violence
-Psychological violence
-Verbal violence
-Sexual violence 

This campaign is based on working with schools to target young people aged 15 to 20 years.

This awareness campaign takes place in three stages:

 1st stage: Display and distribution of tracts in schools
 2nd stage:  theatrical performance
 3rd stage: follow-up with animation with the group/class

This campaign illustrates well one of our learning processes during this three-year mandate. Actually, a subject which is as complex and sensitive as violence in a relationship should be approached from several angles (visual, shock, psychological support, debate, etc.) so that each youngster can grasp the problem violence represents and react appropriately. Therefore, we have repeated a campaign targeting young people for three years which took on a different form each year but spread the same message. By addressing this subject we hope to train more teachers and young people each year to reflect on violence in any form.

• Training in different sectors exposed to the phenomenon of domestic violence:

In the framework of the National Action Plan against violence, training and information aimed at physicians is continuing each year. The primary objective of this training is to enable them to view violence as possible diagnosis for their patients. Several studies have indeed shown that domestic violence represents one of the main causes of mortality in women between 18 and 50 years of age. Women who were physically assaulted during the last twelve months mainly confide in their physician (in 24% of cases), ahead of the police and gendarmerie (in 13% of cases), justice or associations.

These sittings mainly aim at the early detection of violence and the orientation of victims.
Based on the reactions of physicians and the voluntary sector, we assess this project very positively and well-focused. Indeed, the physician is a front-line player in uncovering cases of domestic violence. It is important to continue this training and to possibly include medical staff, medical homes, etc.

• Female genital mutilation training

The region organises, through regional coordination, information sessions for physicians, gynaecologists, obstetricians and staff of the region’s department of children and youths. These training sessions aim at detecting cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) and individuals possibly at risk. By training them we hope to alerting physicians to this problem little known in Belgium. Moreover, these training sessions enable large-scale publication of FGM contact points in hospitals across the region. Thus, the hospitals will be able to refer patients to competent contact persons.
Schools are perhaps also an excellent awareness space; actually the FGM phenomenon in the Brussels-Capital Region is closely linked to school holiday periods as most FGM are performed in the country of origin of the young victim or her family. Awareness of the teaching profession should be considered on a larger scale.

The associations referenced by the Brussels-Capital Region on this subject are well-known by many players and help put the FGM problem on the agenda at crucial moments (e.g. before school holidays). We actively support these NGOs through subsidies or collaboration to help them continue their good work.

• Platform for dialog on domestic violence

The regional dialog platform was set up in 2006, including players of different sectors in the Brussels-Capital Region: police, justice as well as medical, psychosocial and communal sectors. These players are faced in their work with the problem of domestic violence. This platform addresses violence in each sector represented, developing a transversal and multisectoral understanding.

This platform has several objectives:

-to develop a holistic approach
-to set up intersectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration
-to exchange good practices
-to implement awareness, prevention and information actions

Besides the platform, there are also three permanent working groups:

-Police / Justice
-Psychosocial support / Health
-Communal representations

A vital contribution of this platform is to set up a network of all Brussels players on the subject of violence, thereby ensuring a better synergy between NGOs and some economies of scale for the associations.

Moreover, it can highlight emergencies and priority actions as the requests are relayed by all member associations by consensus. This platform thus enables us to better understand the actual situation to accommodate, accompany and detect possible new phenomena with which the region could be confronted.

Lastly, it encourages collaboration between members, e.g. a shelter for women who were victims of violence was shared between two regional communes following a discussion by the platform.

We are convinced that collaboration is the key to managing domestic violence. The platform continues to attract new members and the dynamic generated by it will only increase.
Beijing Report:

The Brussels-Capital Region accounts annually in the form of a report presented to Parliament for progress made on the subject of women’s rights as defined by the 12 criteria of the Beijing Platform.

Editing the contributions is a moment to ponder on new initiatives and actions to propose. The Beijing Report is a project which keeps improving. Continued training of Beijing reporters and all civil servants enhances the visibility of the Beijing Report at the internal level and ensures the long-term implementation of the gender subject in future action plans.

Difficulties encountered are two-fold:

 Implementing gender expertise at all levels of the administration;
 Elaborating specific gender indicators or managing existing indicators. Actually it is difficult to find the necessary resources in-house to establish gender statistics. Yet, the Beijing process and the gender-mainstreaming process started off with reading a statistical table on a phenomenon. 

Thus, in the coming years our attention will focus on the generalisation of gender indicators in statistics produced by the Region.


At the end of 2010, the ministry initiated a pilot project to implement Gender Mainstreaming by which 6 pilot units of the ministry (one per administration) integrated the gender dimension in one or several of their work processes.

The main difficulty of the gender-mainstreaming process is the set-up within the administration’s structures of an internal expert network capable to instil a “gender reflex” in any administration.
It is essential that our agents depart progressively from external expertise and analyse files from a gender perspective themselves. This long-term project implies training and networking which gains in efficiency every year.

The second impediment is the difficulty to produce statistics by gender. Actually, integrating gender criteria in existing statistics requires close collaboration between gender-mainstreaming experts and the agents producing the statistics.

Gender-mainstreaming is a process requiring a “change of position” on a given policy. Thus, it could continue to develop and produce an effect only long-term as it involves another way of thinking.