Belgian prime minister sends defiant message after first homophobic murder in nine years

Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo in a gilded state room

The Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo is defiantly flying the LGBT+ Pride flag from his official residence as the country reels from its first homophobic murder in nine years.

The victim, a 42-year-old gay man named in Belgian media as David P, was found beaten to death in a park just outside Antwerp on Sunday (7 March). He is understood to have been lured there via the dating app Grindr.

The brutal murder has shaken the tiny nation of 11.5 million, and the prime minister expressed full solidarity with the Belgian LGBT+ community.

“In our country, there is no place for hatred. Love wins,” Alexander De Croo said in a tweet alongside a video of the rainbow flag billowing outside 16 Rue de la Loi, the official seat of the federal government.

Three boys aged between 16 and 17 have been linked to the killing and are currently in custody under interrogation, according the public prosecutor of East Flanders.

“Disgust. Grief. Compassion. What drives people so far in their hatred that they kill a man just because he likes men,” deputy prime minister Petra De Sutter tweeted on Monday (8 March).

“Let’s condemn this cowardly murder in the strongest possible terms. And get rid of homo- and transphobia completely, also here with us.”

Police are still in the early stages of their investigation and have not yet classed the murder as a hate crime. At this stage all options are still being considered, including a possible motive of armed robbery.

If the murder is determined to be a hate crime it would only be the third in recent Belgian history. The other two both happened in Liège in 2012.

It comes amid a worrying 38 percent rise in reported attacks agains the LGBT+ community over the previous five years, with 125 incidents of discrimination and 17 acts of physical aggression registered with the group in 2018 alone.

“There is real national outrage,” Laurent James, founder of the support group LGBTQIA+ BE, told Out.

“It’s now abundantly clear that even in a country like Belgium, where law protects LGBT+ individuals and provides them equality on paper, it still isn’t enough to protect us fully in the reality of our heteronormative society.”