Belgian women’s rights platform Zelle resolves to continue struggle for equality and against discrimination

The Belgian progressive women’s rights group, Zelle, vowed to continue the struggle against femicide, harassment against women, and other forms discrimination and oppression

January 02, 2024 by Peoples Dispatch
Mobilization against the Violence Against Women. (Photo: David Pestieau/PTB)

Zelle, the progressive women’s platform in Belgium, resolved on New Year’s Eve to continue the fight to fulfill long-standing demands of women for equality, wage parity, and freedom from discrimination, exploitation, and violence. The group also stated that it will intensify its fight against femicides, sexual assaults, and harassment in the labor market, cultural sector, and households.

Marianne — the women’s group associated with the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA) — was renamed as Zelle (“wings” in French) in November 2023. The Marianne group has been active in struggles in defense of women’s rights.

It is also a part of the ‘Mirabal Platform’ which mobilizes against violence against women in Belgium. The Mirabal Platform was formed by civil society organizations in 2017 in honor of the three Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic who were involved in the resistance against the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo (1934 – 1961). The UN General Assembly designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1999, in their honor.

On December 28, Maartje De Vries, a leader of Zelle, stated that one in three women experiences sexual harassment in her lifetime.

“Violence is present in many homes,” said De Vires. “In 2023, there were at least 25 femicides in Belgium. Capitalism uses patriarchy to ensure its profits. It benefits from gender inequality, from women’s “inferior” position in society. This can be seen in many sectors. Women have always fought for their rights and that’s how we make things happen. We must continue to fight against this ideology that women are inferior and that it is up to them to take care of the children.”

“The government is forcing women to take on this task instead of investing in public services. It chooses to divert public money that should be invested in supporting family tasks, among other things, to large companies and their shareholders,” she added.

Zelle has also demanded a raise in the hourly minimum wage in the country from EUR 12.576 (USD 13.88) to EUR 17 (USD 18.76). The group has also asked the government to prioritize the fight against violence against women and also to invest in quality, affordable, and accessible childcare.

Earlier in November this year, Zelle participated in a nationwide protest over violence against women, organized by Mirabal. In 2022, February, students from universities across Belgium under the leadership of Comac students groups, alongside women’s rights groups including the March 8 Collective and Marianne, protested the spike in sexual violence in universities.

Even though Belgium adopted a national action plan for the Fight against Gender-Based Violence in 2021, many of the proposals are yet to materialize.