A Belgian man became the first person in his country to be convicted of “sexism in a public place,” for a verbal diatribe he unleashed on a female police officer who had stopped him for jaywalking. The man, whose name has not been made public, was also fined 3,000 euros ($3,725) by a Brussels criminal court and could face jail time if he fails to pay the fine. By law, he is permitted to appeal the verdict, which was handed down last November but had gone mostly unnoticed until this week.
The incident stemmed from an altercation in June 2016 when a woman police officer saw a man jaywalking on a street in Zaventem, a small town outside the capital city, The New York Times reported. When the office questioned the man, who was 23 at the time, he fled. She pursued him and apprehended him, at which point, he began to berate her.
“Shut your mouth, I don’t talk to women, being a police officer is not a job for women,” prosecutors said the man shouted at the female police officer, the Times reported. She then placed the man under arrest. By then, there were other officers on the scene, all of them men, but the suspect directed his invective only at the woman officer.
He was prosecuted under a sexism law that was enacted in 2014 following a documentary called Woman of the Street. The film shined a spotlight on the sexual harassment women in Brussels are subject to on the streets day in and day out, and ignited a public outcry, which resulted in the sexism law being added to a larger measure outlawing discrimination. Some have worried that the law could threaten free speech, but officials were happy with the first application of the law in a criminal case.
According to The Guardian, Gilles Blondeau, the spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said, “This is the first time we have used this law to prosecute someone. It is quite common for people arrested by the police to insult and threaten. But to personally blame a policewoman because of her sex is special. It was a good case to test this law: a concrete and very clear case, with many witnesses.”
Watch the trailer for Women of the Street below.