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Belgian Man Convicted of ‘Sexism in the Public Space,’ a First

Sexism, according to the law, is defined as “every gesture or deed” that is “clearly meant to express contempt of a person based on sex,” or considers a person inferior based on sex, or reduces a person solely to a sexual dimension, and which “gravely affects the dignity of that person as a result.” Violation of the law can lead to a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to €10,000.

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Belgian Man Convicted of ‘Sexism in the Public Space,’ a First
Belgian Man Convicted of ‘Sexism in the Public Space,’ a First

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The conviction took place in November, and went almost entirely unnoticed until a legal magazine reported on it recently. In an atmosphere charged by the #MeToo movement, the verdict has now drawn extensive coverage in Belgium.

On June 6, 2016, a police officer on a routine patrol saw the defendant, who was then 23, cross a street against a traffic light in Zaventem, a town outside Brussels, according to court documents. When the officer tried to stop him for questioning, he fled and officers chased him on foot, finally catching him in the middle of a local annual fair.

Although several police officers were present, the man only insulted the female officer. “The case was easy to prosecute,” said Mr. Blondeau, as the arrest and the abuses happened in a very public space “with several bystanders serving as witnesses.”

During the arrest, the man claimed to be the victim of discrimination “because of his dark skin color,” Mr. Blondeau said.

Over 30 percent of the Belgium’s 40,000 police officers are female, according to Sandra Eyschen, a spokeswoman for the Belgian federal police. “Female personnel are integrated in all services, departments and ranks of the police,” she said.

Follow Milan Schreuer on Twitter: @MilanSchreuer.

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