Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, and the government prosecuted such cases. In 2010 the federal police registered 2,911 rapes, a slight increase from the previous year, and 3,432 indecent assaults. A convicted rapist may be imprisoned for a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of 30 years depending on such factors as the age of the victim, the difference in age between offender and victim, the relationship between the pair, and the use or absence of violence during the crime. In a July report relying on 2008 figures, UN Women highlighted the low sentencing rate in Belgium for rape and related crimes.
The law prohibits domestic violence and provides for fines and incarceration. In the first half of 2011, federal police registered the following complaints related to domestic violence: 10,655 complaints of physical violence between partners (21,891 in 2010), 75 for sexual violence (123 in 2010), 10,483 of psychological violence (20,812 in 2010), and 919 for economic violence between partners (1,778 in 2010). The Federal Institute for Equality of Men and Women coordinates a national action plan to combat violence between domestic partners. The 2010-14 national action plan focuses on forced marriages, violence linked to honor, and genital mutilation.
A number of government-supported shelters and telephone help lines were available across the country for victims of domestic abuse. In addition to providing shelter, many shelters assisted in legal matters, job placement, and psychological counseling to both partners. Reliable statistics on sexual harassment were not easily accessible since formal complaints could be filed with various entities. The law aims to prevent violence and harassment at work, obliging companies to set up internal procedures to handle employee complaints; the government generally enforced the antiharassment legislation.
Reproductive Rights: The constitution provides for complete freedom in the way that persons organize their private lives, including the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Health clinics and local health NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on family planning. There are no restrictions on the right to access contraceptives. Men and women received equal access to diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. According to estimates compiled by international organizations, in 2011 there were approximately five maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the country.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal rights as men, including rights under family law, property law, in the judicial system, in labor relations, and in social welfare protection. The law also prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender, pregnancy, or motherhood as well as sexual intimidation in labor relations and in access to goods, services, social welfare, and health care.
The Federal Institute for the Equality of Men and Women, responsible for promoting gender equality, may initiate lawsuits if it finds that equality laws have been violated. Most complaints received during the year were work-related and most concerned the termination of employment contracts due to pregnancy.
During the year the government continued implementation of the Gender Mainstreaming Act of 2007, which obliges authorities to address gender aspects in planning policy, collecting data, drafting budgets, awarding contracts, and drafting reports.
Economic discrimination against women continued. During the year the Federal Institute for the Equality of Men and Women released a survey (based on 2007 data) showing an average gap of 11 percent in the gross wages paid to men and women. The gap was 27 percent for white-collar and 16 percent for blue-collar workers. Taking into account part-time work, the overall wage gap was 25 percent. Data from the European Professional Women’s Network indicated that women filled 11.1 percent of the positions on boards of directors of leading private companies compared with 7 percent in 2008. In June parliament approved a law requiring a one-third quota of women on all boards of public and publicly traded companies, but not private companies. The law was published in the national gazette on September 14, and subsequently went into effect.