On Saturday, 14 May 2011 the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism took part in Belgian Pride, covered in multiple layers of ... Post-its.
As part of its mission to combat homophobia (for the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia on 17 May), the Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism launched an awareness campaign during Belgian Pride, in order to encourage gays, lesbians and bisexuals to report cases of homophobic discrimination, harassment or aggression of which they may have been victims. The Centre has noted that many members of the LGB community hesitate to report such situations to the Centre or to the police.
And yet Belgium has a law that offers protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in most sectors of society (employment, housing, goods and services, social protection, etc.).
As a symbolic gesture two representatives of the Centre appeared at Belgian Pride covered in discriminatory ‘labels’ (on Post-its), inviting people to report discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and homophobic violence, and to stop downplaying such acts.
In 2010, only four cases of homophobic violence were referred to the courts by the Belgian public prosecutors. The police forces recorded 34 cases of homophobic violence in 2008, 56 in 2009, and at the end of the first half of 2010 there were already 30.
As regards discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the Centre opened 85 cases in 2010.
As these figures suggest, few gay or lesbian victims seek redress from the courts against offenders, and are slow to report them to the Centre. It seems that in addition to the usual obstacles to making a complaint (lack of support, psychological resistance, fear of not being given a fair hearing, etc.), other factors such as fear of victimisation, shame and pride can also account for why victims of discrimination and hate crimes rarely make a complaint.
Another problem is that when reports are made, they end up at a number of different places: the police, specialised organisations and social workers. The cases are not always recognised and registered as reports of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or of a homophobic crime.
Only 8% of the cases of ’sexual orientation’ that were opened by the Centre in 2010 involved lesbians. Lesbians are, in other words, even less well represented in the figures