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Belgium

Queen Mathilde marks 25th anniversary of White March against child sexual abuse and exploitation


Photo: Laura Dekkers

It does not matter what status you hold; being a mother is sure to teach you a love that you never thought possible. 

Queen Mathilde of the Belgians knows this, as she gave birth to four children herself. And on Wednesday, 20 October, she represented all mothers at De Bode – To the Missing Children monument in the Warande Park, Brussels. 

There, she stood silently and laid a single white rose—a poignant tribute to all children that went missing and fell victims to sexual exploitation or abuse. 

The event was held to mark the 25th anniversary of the White March, a protest with no signs and no chants that was held on the day a Belgian sex offender and murderer was arrested. 

The colour white represents the innocence of children, but also the absence of slogans because, in the words of the protest’s organisers, “There are no words to describe the horror that is child sexual abuse”. 

On that day in 1996, some 300,000 people marched in silence through the streets of Brussels to demand an independent investigation of the matter and better protections for children. All six of the girls he abused were kidnapped from places they should have been safe at, like pools and schools. Only two of the girls were found alive, the other four having either been killed or left to die. 

Queen Mathilde has long worked not only in Belgium but with international institutions as well for childhood rights. Since 2009, she has been the Honorary President of UNICEF Belgium, the country’s division of the United Nations Children’s Fund, as well as, among many others, ChildFocus, a Belgian organisation that works to find missing children and offers support through the aftermaths of child sexual exploitation and abuse. 

She is hardly the only royal with such interests; the first name that comes to mind is Childhood, the organisation founded by Queen Silvia of Sweden and currently co-chaired by her daughter Princess Madeleine.