Gays under pressure in Belgium's moral backlash Anger over child murders switches to Belgium's gays

After the child-murder scandals, the gains of 30 years are being rolled back. Sarah Helm reports

Nobody around the Place Fontainas has anything good to say about Oliver T. He must be one of them - that they admit. But they didn't know him. All they know is that by naming Elio Di Rupo, the Belgian deputy prime minister, as one of his "clients", this fellow prostitute has broken the strict code of silence which is enforced here on the street.

He has encouraged a backlash against gays in general and damaged the male prostitution business. Police patrols have increased, and Oliver T, who is revealed to be a waiter called Oliver Trusgnach, has scared people away from this central Brussels square, where trade is normally brisk from 3pm onwards. It is then that men start leaving offices, shops, factories, ministries, embassies, and stop off, briefly, at Place Fontainas, before making their way home.

"He is a fool, that guy," said one young man, who called himself Jean. "We are discreet. We never talk." He would not say how old he was. Tall, with dark curly hair, hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans, it was hard to tell if he was 16 or 26, as he stood there on a street corner, under a statue of the Virgin, on the soaring bulk of Notre Dame du Bon Secours. But then nobody this week seemed to know how old Oliver T was either.

In spite of the threat to the government should his allegations prove true, and in spite of all the pages of lurid allegations printed in the Belgian press, not even the police have bothered to establish whether Oliver T was under 16, the age of consent, when he allegedly had sex with the Deputy Prime Minister. And nobody seems to care.

Oliver T is a "victim" - whatever his age - and a new, and potent symbol of moral corruption at the heart of the state. For nearly three months the country has been in shock, following the revelations of the sexual abuse, torture and murder of young girls, carried out, according to the charges, by a known paedophile, Marc Dutroux. For three months Belgians have demanded explanations for how such horrors could have been allowed to happen, and then covered up for so long by bungling police and judges.

Initially, people displayed sorrow, while angrily attacking the Belgian establishment. Simultaneous revelations about a series of political corruption cases, and new evidence in the unsolved murder of Andre Cools, in 1991, then Deputy Prime Minister, deepened the shock. Now, however, all that is left is the anger. Belgium seems determined to find the "guilty man". The "moral" right is on a new crusade.

The case of Eli Di Rupo, an openly gay politician, who admitted he has used male prostitutes but denied his partners have been under-age, has stoked the fires of moral outrage. The gay community all over Belgium is on the alert. Political leaders of the extreme right Vlaams Blok party and the conservative Catholic parties are targeting them, they say.

In the moral confusion, gays fear what the new sanctification of "the family" and "family values" will mean for them. Proposed new gay-rights laws have been shelved. The gains of 30 years are being rolled back, say liberals. Mr Di Rupo, son of an Italian immigrant, is a member of the Francophone Socialists - the party which has been most exposed in recent corruption scandals. The liberals claim the allegations against Mr Di Rupo were calculated to discredit the Francophone Socialists in order to bring down the centre-left coalition government.

And yet the Di Rupo case has nothing to do with the Dutroux atrocities. There is no evidence to suggest Mr Di Rupo at any stage had any responsibility for the Dutroux inquiries or could have been associated with a cover-up. All the youths he may have had sex with, whatever their age, were clearly "victims".

But their tragedy should not be confused with the tragedy of Julie and Melissa, the eight-year-old girls left to starve in a dungeon by Dutroux. He murdered and abused women and girls. "Suddenly in Belgium we are not talking about murders of young girls any more," says Peter Sioen, a psychologist and expert on male prostitution. "We are not talking about political corruption. We are only talking about gays, prostitution and the age of consent."

Since the Dutroux atrocities came to light in August, Belgium has found moral corruption everywhere. The papers have been full of revelations about paedophiles and other depravities, which previously this society preferred to keep hidden.

Brussels is a place where any kind of sex is on offer at the right price. Female prostitution is here for all to see, parading the seedy streets around the Gare du Nord or the wealthy boulevards around Avenue Louise. Brussels, like any big city, has a large gay community, and male prostitution has always been been widespread, although, as Jean would say, it is "more discreet."

The client "profile" shows most of those visiting the prostitutes are family men leading double lives. Politicians, diplomats, priests are among figures regularly identified by researchers, openly approaching the youths of the Place Fontainas.

While Oliver T's revelations about Mr Di Rupo may have emptied the streets for now, the prostitutes still working here believe the rest will soon be back. "Business will be good again," says Jean, as a dark limousine purrs around the front of Notre Dame du Bon Secour.

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child