Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, and the government prosecuted such cases. A convicted rapist may receive 10 to 30 years in prison, depending on factors such as the age of the victim, the difference in age between the offender and the victim, their relationship, and the use or absence of violence during the crime.
The law prohibits domestic violence and provides for fines and incarceration. Legal sanctions for domestic violence are based on the sanctions for physical violence against a third person; the latter range from eight days to 20 years in prison, depending on the means and consequences of the violence. In case of domestic violence, these sanctions are doubled. The law lists several aggravating circumstances, such as violence against the partner and the weakness of the partner (due to age, pregnancy, illness, or handicap.) A number of government-supported shelters and telephone helplines were available across the country for victims of domestic abuse. In addition to providing lodging, many shelters assisted in legal matters, job placement, and psychological counseling to both partners.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for women and girls. Reported cases were primarily filed by recent immigrants or asylum seekers. Since 2014 two hospitals, in Ghent and Brussels, were reference hospitals for FGM/C victims. There were no new cases reported in 2015, but a recent study estimated that, as of the end of 2012, there were 48,092 women or girls in Belgium who had arrived from a country where FGM/C was practiced. The study estimated that 13,112 individuals were likely excised, while 4,084 were deemed “at risk” of the practice.
The number of requests for asylum in the country based on FGM/C risk declined slightly, from 701 in 2014 to 609 in 2015. Parents often filed requests on behalf of their children. When asylum was granted, authorities followed up to ensure that FGM/C did not take place by having a parent sign a declaration and by requesting a medical certificate each year. Criminal sanctions apply to persons convicted of FGM/C.
Sexual Harassment: The law aims to prevent violence and harassment at work, obliging companies to set up internal procedures to handle employee complaints. Sexist remarks and attitudes targeting a specific individual are illegal; fines for violations range from 50 to 1,000 euros ($55 to $1,100). Reliable statistics on sexual harassment were not easily available, since formal complaints may be filed with various entities. The government generally enforced antiharassment laws. Although there was not a national campaign to fight sexual harassment, politicians and organizations such as the Federal Institute for the Equality of Men and Women worked to raise awareness of the problem.
Reproductive Rights: The constitution includes the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. According to the UN Population Division, 67 percent of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 were estimated to have used a modern method of contraception in 2015.
Discrimination: Women have the same legal rights as men, including rights under family, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The law requires equal pay for equal work and 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.