Discrimination: I'm not treated equally.

Discrimination can happen to anyone. It makes you feel uncomfortable and disappointed. Some people face discrimination when applying for a job, looking for a new home or are treated unfairly in various common, everyday situations. What exactly is discrimination? What can you do if you're discriminated against and how can Violett help you?

“I've been looking for a studio flat for a long time. Many landlords don't even reply. I think because of my Spanish-name. I went to visit a studio flat once. When the landlord heard that my income was not very high and that my Dutch was poor, he immediately told me that the flat had been rented out. However, several months later the ‘for rent’ notice was still there. It's so frustrating and exhausting.”

Leila, window prostitute

When am I discriminated against?

We talk about discrimination when, in certain situations and for no good reason, you are treated less equally or less fairly than other people. Those who experience discrimination often have protracted feelings of injustice and frustration. 

Sex workers can be the victim of discrimination during their work (e.g. by the customers, colleagues or the owners of the premises). An owner of a property who does not allow you to work in his or her property because of your origin, a customer who ridicules you in front of your window, who chases other customers away because, for example, you're a shemale or a transgender, are but a few examples.

Discrimination can also take place outside the workplace. Some sex workers are discriminated against when looking for a new studio flat (by an estate agent or homeowner) or when looking for another job (by a temp office or employer). Unfair treatment also takes place in everyday life through bullying or harassment motivated by personal characteristics. Such behaviour is punishable by law.

To get more information about discrimination, please consult the Unia website. This organisation has been created to fight against discrimination. Unia's staff will help anyone who faces discrimination or who is looking for more information.

Why am I discriminated against? 

Discrimination has various causes. The person who treats you unfairly probably has difficulty accepting some of your physical or personal characteristics such as the fact that:

  • you are a sex worker
  • you are gay
  • you are a transgender
  • you are on a low income or on a living wage
  • you come from another country
  • you have a different skin colour
  • you don’t speak Dutch (Flemish)
  • you have a different religion
  • you are a bit older

These are no reasons for treating a sex worker differently or unfairly. The person who discriminates is wrong and violates the law. You don't do anything wrong. 

The above are just a few examples that come from real-life situations experienced by sex workers. However, there are many other causes of discrimination.

“I wanted to get on the bus, just like everybody else. When it was my turn to get on, the driver closed the doors and drove on. I'll never forget the look he gave me. As though I was a worthless piece of shit, because I am a transgender. All the other passengers stared at me. I was very embarrassed and felt so inferior. It took me a long time before I could step on the bus again with pride.”

Anita, escort

How does it feel to be discriminated against? 

Everyone reacts in their own way in the face of discrimination. Even one act of discrimination can have a big impact on your life. You can feel hurt, offended and unaccepted. Your self-esteem is damaged. You may even refrain from certain activities, to avoid ending up in a similar situation again.

Discrimination can make the search for a new apartment or job very difficult. It's frustrating when you try hard and still come up against a wall. You may consider giving up. Discrimination stands between you and your goals.

What can I do when I or someone else is discriminated against? 

You don't have to suffer discrimination. You can do something about it if you want to. In Belgium, there are laws that protect you from discrimination such as the anti-racism, the gender and the anti-discrimination law. This means that any person who discriminates against another person can be punished by law.

If you or another person experience discrimination, you can report the facts via the Unia website, by phone or in person by appointment. They will take your claim seriously and contact you. Together with you, they'll investigate whether action can be taken or how the situation can be resolved.

Don't you want to fight this alone? Do you like to get some help to report the incident? Violett’s counsellors can assist you in this process.

How can Violett help?

You can always talk to Violett's counsellors about discrimination. It may be a relief to talk about what you've been through and how you feel about it. Some sex workers just want a chat, others may need more time to be able to deal with what happened. When you feel that the issue is deep-seated, you may need more extensive psychological support to take back control of your life. The counsellors can give you more information about going into therapy.

If you decide to file a formal complaint, our staff can give you more information and advice. They can help you draft the claim and advise you on the next steps. Everything is done in consultation with you. Nothing happens without your permission.

You want more information?

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