A new Spring in Belgium?

Leuven Travel Blog

 › entry 27 of 27 › view all entries
Catching the train yesterday from Brussels to Leuven I was watching the country side go past, full of light and colour, just about to burst into Spring. Unfortunately my mood shifted rather rapidly from admiration of Belgium to profound disappointment. Today I learn that Belgium is moving towards putting women in prison for the choice they make in clothing. That is the only way you can describe the ban on the burka.

“Wearing the burka in public is not compatible with an open, liberal, tolerant society”, according to Daniel Bacquelaine. Yet putting women in prison for seven days for choosing to wear the burka is compatible with an open, liberal and tolerant society?

“The burka is contrary to the dignity of women. It is a walking prison”, he claims without the slightest sense of irony - obviously preferring the women to be forced into the traditional style "bars and barbwire" prison. "We have to free women of this burden", from Corinne de Parmentier, trying to enforce a much harsher burden. I'm sorry, but this is just screwed up. Does he think that these women will now start wearing short-shorts? More likely they'll be forced into self-imposed imprisonment, unwilling to go out in public. How is that good for the women? I wish these stupid racist bastards would stop pretend they are looking out for the women they are persecuting. Pass some useful laws, like making it illegal for a man to force a woman to wear burka or pressure her into subservience. Cracking down on the fashion itself is just a moronic way of trying to hide the problem.

To those people who hide behind terrorism fears instead of pseudo-liberation poses, a burka hides no more than the winter coats worn by every Belgian. To those people who are just anti-Islam - look again. In Belgium Catholics are more religious than Muslims, there are almost no burkas in sight (right now, next week I'd be willing to wear a burka in protest and I bet I'm not the only one) and the fanatics are the Flemish racial purists in Vlaams Belang. I think the burka is silly, but then I also think a lot of fashion is silly. I think some of the religious beliefs behind the Abrahamic religions directly lead to repression of women -  but the best way around religion is secular education, not state prohibition. The very idea that the state is going to "protect" women by throwing them in jail for what they wear is like the state "protecting" gay men by criminalising their sexuality. I am just so angry that these people, on top of the power pyramid, are picking on those with the least power.
Adrian_Liston says:
Hmmm...

1. Are there actually laws against wearing Nazi uniforms in Belgium? As for prohibitions on nudity, there is a big difference between forcing someone to cover something they want to expose and forcing someone to expose something they want to cover. One is an imposition of external morality, the other is a violation of self. Ripping away a headscarf is exactly like ripping off a T shirt - it is sexual assault. Even forcibly removing a sock from a woman is sexual assault if she didn't want to show that bit of skin to you.

2. A burqa may hide identity, but lots of outfits hide identity. Isn't a uniform a loss of identity? And shouldn't people have the right to be anonymous? Plus I think a fair degree of the loss of identity is just due to unfamiliarity.

3. If forcing someone to wear a burqa is already illegal (and I hope it is), then either a) all the women who do wear a burqa in Belgium are doing it voluntarily, so nobody is "protecting" those women; or b) the police are not enforcing the law that already exists, in which case they should do that before inventing new laws. Yes, domestic violence of any kind is difficult to enforce, but it is not impossible. Support lines, women's shelters, counselling, rights education - these things are all important, and unlike this stupid law they actually make a difference to the lives of women. How many women are there in Belgium who wear a burqa anyway? Maybe a dozen? Shesh, they could assign full-time welfare officers to each one for next to nothing, to make sure their is no domestic abuse.
Posted on: Apr 01, 2010
lamadude says:
First of all, I agree that it's wrong to punish women wearing a burqa, but I do have some remarks

1. We're already telling people how to dress, try walking in the streets of Brussels naked or in a nazi uniform.

2. A Burqa does hide more than a winter coat imo, it hides your identity, it's like the carnival in Venice but with less fireworks

3.I'm pretty sure forcing your wife to wear a burqa is ALREADY illegal, just as forcing anyone to do anything is. And even if you would pass a law specifically outlawing it, how would you enforce it? Passing a law without being able to enforce it is pointless.

Posted on: Apr 01, 2010
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Leuven
photo by: Chokk