A man has been prosecuted for the first time under Belgium’s sexism law

He was convicted after verbally abusing a police officer

A man has become the first person convicted under a new law that that criminalises sexism in a public place. The law includes a €3,000 (£2,700) fine, which if not paid would result in a one month prison sentence. He has not been named.

Back in 2016, the man insulted a police officer during the process of arrest. He was convicted of a “serious violation of the dignity of the person because of her sex”, and the use of threats. This marked the first conviction that took place based on gender and abuse related matters, according to Belgium newspaper, Le Soir.

Following mass outcry in 2014 about the problem with harassment, new measures were put on Belgium’s statue books to implement change. Much of the fervour was prompted by student-led film, Femme de la Rue, which included covert filming that documented everyday abuse women endured on the streets. The film provided a course of action and urged news legislation that went further than the criminalisation of insults, stalking, harassment and public nuisance. 

The new ruling has since been faced with backlash and criticism, with quarters arguing that there is no protection against racial abuse and others claiming that the definition of the new law is ‘too broad’.

Gilles Blondeau, the spokesman of the public prosecutor’s office for the district of Halle Vilvoorde, told the Guardian: “This is the first time we have used this law to prosecute someone. It is quite common for people arrested by the police to insult and threaten.It was a good case to test this law: a concrete and very clear case, with many witnesses.”

From 2016, uninvited sexual advances and street harassment towards women – including catcalling and wolf-whistling – were officially recorded as hate crimes in Nottinghamshire.