In 2017 I was mentally struggling for a while. Mostly this had to do with the state of the world. I’ve been a human rights activist for 18 years now, which means I’ve seen a lot of change. Sometimes for the better, often for the worse.

I lost it temporarily at the end of 2015 when I went to volunteer in Calais, France – a camp where thousands of refugees were trying to survive. They didn’t get enough food, water or medicine, they were attack by the police and neonazi forces. These kinds of experiences make me question humanity.

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Earlier I wrote that my first book was quite a struggle, during the middle of the writing and especially near the end. The circumstances were difficult, but something else that I’m sure mattered is that the book was so eclectic. I wanted to give an overview of a number of different topics, which slowed down the research. When writing about introductory aspects of feminism, and porn culture, and sexual and physical violence, and trans liberation, and the future of feminism and some of the history, and and and… it becomes difficult to maintain focus and to keep the number of pages acceptable. I never felt  had said all I wanted to say and I hope to be able to revisit many of these topics in perhaps a second revised edition or new articles and books.

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Last year I finished my first book, called Feminisme – een nieuw begin (Feminism – a new beginning). Since then people have asked questions about the writing. How did it feel to write it? How does it feel to have finished? My writer friend, working on her own first book, was watching me closely to see what would happen, how this would change me.

So how does it feel? Let’s talk about the writing process first.

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I’m not putting up any recognizable pictures or details of refugees because I don’t want to endanger them: they may risk persecution or have their request for asylum denied.

Due to the war in Syria many people have fled their war-torn country. Some have died – the pictures of this the world over ignited a new wave of protest against the “Fortress Europe” policies. Some of the survivors are in Calais, France now. Many of them try to reach England through the canal tunnel.

Belgium has started organising to help out the refugees in Calais. We’ve been collecting goods – clothes, tents, food, soap and so on. Many people must have been waiting for something to do, getting fed up with the news and the inhuman reactions of politicians, there have been so much donations… Yesterday, September 4th, we went to Calais. All in all about 80 to 100 cars/vans/trucks came from Belgium to help out in Calais. People from many different countries are there to help in an amazing show of solidarity.

army truckAfter hours of travelling and sorting stuff, we ended up with about 18 people in the army truck of L, one of the two women who are the main organisers of the solidarity.

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“Other Voices makes space for interesting and inspiring speakers to talk on various topics. In the media or other debates we notice the same people again and again. It is no surprise that this little elite consists mostly of white higher middle class men. We want to work differently.”
– Other Voices website

In March 2015 I was invited to speak at Other Voices, a meeting space in Brussels (Belgium) where host Bleri Lleshi invites people to discuss diverse topics.

Other Voices wants to provide space for more voices than just old white men, to this end normally Bleri always invites a man and a woman, at least one with a migration background. This time for feminism he was forced to concede defeat and invite two women to speak 😉

This year’s main theme was visions of the future, and for the topic of the future of feminism, Samira Azabar and I were invited. Samira Azabar is a sociologist and member of the collective BOEH – boss over our own heads – a feminist organisation that became famous for fighting for the right to wear the veil. They sued the public schools  for forbidding the students the right to wear veils – as e.g. some Muslims choose to do. That lawsuit really pisses off all the right people 😉

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© Evie Embrechts

notforsale2Amnesty International recently voted for promoting a policy of decriminalisation of prostitution. Some are in favour, others vehemently disagree. What’s going on? I’m writing this from my perspective as a feminist in Belgium.

  1. Definitions
  2. The voices of prostitutes – who’s talking?
  3. The voice of money
  4. Research and decriminalisation
  5. What can be done in Belgium?

Definitions

Legalisation, criminalisation, decriminalisation… looking through a dictionary doesn’t help a lot to understand the debate. Instead, I’ll give three real-world examples:

In The Netherlands there is a partial legalisation. In 2000 the laws against owning brothels were struck. Pimping became legal, just like selling and buying sex – but only in certain designated places like official brothels. There is a large – and growing – illegal sector, and a lot of human trafficking. Germany has more or less the same situation – with so much trafficking into it that Germany is referred to as “the brothel of Europe” – and the conditions for prostitutes are horrible there.

In Belgium things are pretty muddy. Officially, the law forbids pimping but in reality there’s a politics of tolerance – mostly that means politicians and the police do what they want. There are some small organisations that “aid” prostitutes but there are no exit programmes so the aid is limited to “doing the best you can in bad circumstances”.

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