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World Brussels to name street after murdered sex worker

19:35  16 september  2021
19:35  16 september  2021 Source:   bbc.com

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The city of Brussels has said it will name a new street after a murdered Nigerian sex worker, as part of a wider campaign to recognise women in Belgium.

Protests were held after Eunice Osayande was killed by a customer in June 2018 © Kevin Van den Panhuyzen/BRUZZ Protests were held after Eunice Osayande was killed by a customer in June 2018

The city council said the street will be bear the name of Eunice Osayande, who was stabbed to death by a disgruntled customer in June 2018.

Drawn by the promise of work and a brighter future in Europe, Ms Osayande came to the Belgium capital in 2016.

Ms Osayande thought the men who invited her were acting agents who were going to make her a film star. In reality, they were human traffickers.

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Once in Brussels, Ms Osayande was immediately forced into prostitution. She was told she owed the smuggling gang €45,000 (£38,000; $52,000) for her transit, pimps and rent.

In the weeks leading up to her death, she had contacted a sex worker charity and told them she was experiencing violence and intimidation while working. She feared she couldn't go to the police because she was an undocumented migrant.

In June 2018, at the age of 23, Ms Osayande was stabbed 17 times by a customer in the Gare du Nord district.

Protests led by the migrant sex worker community in Brussels soon erupted. The marchers demanded better working conditions and called on local authorities to create clear legal guidelines for the sector.

Prostitution is not illegal in Belgium but there are no unified national rules.

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a group of people posing for the camera: Ms Osayande was told she had to pay thousands of pounds to her traffickers © Kevin Van den Panhuyzen/BRUZZ Ms Osayande was told she had to pay thousands of pounds to her traffickers

Maxime Maes, director of the UTSOPI sex workers union in Brussels, organised the march.

"Eunice's death has been extremely distressing, especially for undocumented migrants in the area where she worked," she told the BBC.

"The area of Schaerbeek has seen increasing violence and the most marginalised women are targeted."

A 17-year-old man was charged with Ms Osayande's murder and is awaiting trial. Four members of the trafficking ring were also arrested and in January this year received prison sentences of up to four years.

By naming a new street after Ms Osayande, the City of Brussels said it wanted to draw attention to all the "forgotten women who are victims of human trafficking, sexual violence and femicides".

The street will be the first named after a sex worker in the country, according to Belgium broadcaster RTBF.

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a group of people wearing costumes: The council says it wants to draw attention to the victims of sexual violence © Frédéric Oszczak The council says it wants to draw attention to the victims of sexual violence

The new street, which will be in the northern municipality of Schaerbeek, is part of an ongoing initiative by the council to name more areas after women.

The council has already named streets after several notable women, including resistance fighters Yvonne Nèvejean and Andrée De Jongh, and a bridge after Suzan Daniel, a Belgian LGBT activist.

But Jens Poplier, a spokesperson for the City of Brussels, said: "Feminism for us is not just about women who excel.

"Inclusive feminism is about women's rights and struggles at every social rank."

Ms Poplier said 42% of women in Belgium between the ages of 16 and 69 have experienced physical sexual violence at some point.

"This percentage is much higher among sex workers. And that is precisely why Eunice Osayande gets a street."

The street, which is under construction, will be officially opened in the next few months.

The city council say sex workers and migrant communities will be invited to speak at the inauguration.

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