Cursing comes at a cost in Belgium

The government is putting soap in mouths of citizens after a documentary showed how women are harassed in the streets

If you’re in Brussels and feel the urge to curse, be sure to have plenty of euros on hand: the Belgian capital has announced plans to impose fines for insulting and crude speech. “Any form of insult is from now on punishable,” declared a spokesperson for Brussels Mayor Freddy Thielemans, “whether it be racist, homophobic or otherwise.” Police can impose fines of up to 250 euros when they believe they’ve heard citizens use offensive language. CCTV and witness testimony can be used in their hunt for offenders.

Thielemans’s socialist administration has increased its attempt to clean up the city since a documentary, Femme de La Rue, made secret recordings that called attention to the sexual harassment and ugly language being directed at women in Brussels. In addition to the anti-swearing ordinance, the mayor has proposed restrictions on the sale of alcohol in convenience stores: he says he’s trying to apply the same techniques that have already worked against “littering and peeing in the street.” Though he didn’t say whether using the term “peeing in the street” could now get you fined.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.