Jonatas and Tim testify: “In the end, every effort we made was worthwhile”
When Jonatas and Tim became victims of homophobic violence, they decided to take immediate action. They asked the police and Unia for help: two years after their report, the perpetrators were convicted by the court. We let Jonatas and Tim speak.
“On the night of the 8th of September 2018, we went with some friends to the kebab restaurant Het Hoekske, in Leuven. After eating, we were approached by the two employees working there, who made a remark that one of us behaved ‘very gay’. We asked them if there was anything wrong with being gay and told them that we are in fact engaged. Immediately after we said this, they started to attack us physically and verbally in front of the door of the restaurant. We were punched and kicked several times, resulting in a concussion for one of us. We pursued an investigation with the help of the Belgian antidiscrimination organization, Unia. On March 10th, 2021, we received the verdict of the court case, which clearly acknowledged the violence of our aggressors as a hate crime, followed by its full and adequate punishment.”
Not the first time
“It is not uncommon to suffer homophobic microaggressions in our day-to-day lives — whether it is verbal or via ‘looks’. Like many other minorities, we learn to live with these microaggressions and look past them in order to live with dignity in society. But this was different.”
It should be shocking to be treated with hatred based solely on your sexuality.
“It is not the first time that one of us has been physically attacked on the basis of our sexual orientation. The first time this happened, no action was taken by the police and, eventually, nothing happened to the people who caused the harm. So when it happened this time, for one of us, sadly, it didn't feel like a surprise. This reaction should not be normalized. It should be shocking to be treated with hatred based solely on your sexuality. What happened to us has impacted our psyche and the way we behave in public, and still today we are working to re-adapt ourselves to the public sphere as a couple. Luckily in our case, the physical scars are gone, but the process to mentally recover from this attack takes time and effort.”
Guidance from friends and family
“We never had a doubt that what happened to us was an attack fueled by discrimination. Although we were profoundly impacted by what happened, we decided to act immediately by calling the police and asking our friends and family for guidance. That is when we were glad to hear about an organization in Belgium that is there to help vulnerable minorities by supporting them should they become victims of any kind of discrimination: Unia has been a tremendous help in our process of receiving justice. It had been a little more than two years from the moment we first called the police to the moment we got a verdict from the court. We had to be deliberate and persistent even if sometimes that meant going against our urge to hide, but, ultimately, every effort we made was worth it.”
Unia has been a tremendous help in our process of receiving justice
Our voice has been heard
“In spite of the wait, hearing from the court that our case was given justice validated our voice and our place in society. We do feel like justice has been served and now we can move on.”
We want to encourage others to stand up for their legitimacy as individuals, regardless of their ethnicity, sexual orientation, origin, religious belief or gender.
“All in all, it is understandable to feel unheard, ashamed, or scared to take any action as a victim of discrimination — and we believe that verbal or physical aggression is never a justifiable means of solving conflict. We want to encourage anyone going through similar circumstances to consider standing up for their legitimacy as individuals, independently of ethnicity, sexual orientation, origin, religious belief, or gender, and we hope that our story can show that hate crimes can and should be held accountable before the law.”
Unia takes a stand for getting along together, even in times of corona crisis
The corona crisis that is gripping our country has fuelled mutual distrust among citizens. “We notice that there is a strong tendency to look for culprits or scapegoats”, says Els Keytsman, director of Unia. “This is a trend that we must counteract. Nobody benefits from it. We would do much better to support the countless forms of solidarity created by the pandemic. The corona crisis is certainly not over yet. We have to learn to live with this virus without destroying the solidarity in our society.”
A new project to improve the collection and processing of equality data in Belgium
"Improving equality data collection in Belgium" (IEDCB) is a Belgian project co-funded by the European Commission's Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) programme. It is carried out in partnership by the Equal Opportunities Team (FOD Justitie - SPF Justice) and Unia.
Aalst Carnival: Unia analyses reports
Just like last year, Jewish caricatures and stereotypes were shown during the carnival in Aalst. Unia received several reports about this. We understand that some of the caricatures shocked and hurt people, and will further investigate the facts.
Unia encourages intercultural awareness in folklore traditions
Unia is calling for a more inclusive image for folkloric events and intangible heritage such as carnival. Local organisers and partners can play an important role in this. That is one of Unia’s recommendations in a report drawn up following the controversy about the anti-Semitic float in Aalst.