Belgian university tells students: don't wear dresses or you might get raped

Only this time, the advice was aimed at the male students.

Students in a Belgian university have been banned from wearing dresses in case it causes them to be raped. Unlike most stories of victim-blaming, though, this ban affects men. Flanders News.be reports:

As in the United States, student fraternities in Belgium have a long tradition of initiation rituals for new members, some of which include male students wearing drag.

Last month, a student that was on his way to an initiation evening dressed as a woman was set upon by a group of youths. They took him to a car park before robbing him of his mobile and gang raping him.

The HUB advises its students that “certain groups perceive wearing drag as being provocative.” Consequently, the Institute of Higher Education that groups most the capital’s Dutch-medium colleges of higher education advises its students against dressing as a member of the opposite sex.

If it needs to be said again, then so be it. There is nothing you can wear which makes it your fault if you are raped. Rapists have no right to dictate how you dress. If you are raped, it is the fault of:

1) The person who raped you.

That goes for a woman wearing a short skirt in a club or a man wearing a dress in a Brussels suburb.

Colombian 21-year-old transvestite Luis Angel, aka 'Ana Sofia', has his make-up done. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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