The Amsterdam city leadership is greatly concerned about the safety of girls and women in Amsterdam. But the mayor does not want the real perpetrators to be blamed.
According to Mayor Femke Halsema, girls and young women are being confronted with sexual intimidation or violence in increasing numbers. Therefore, she is announcing measures, Dutch daily De Telegraaf reported.
Research shows that 51 percent of women in Amsterdam have been confronted with street intimidation. For the ages 15 to 34, the percentage is 81 percent. Many reports come especially from the region around the Central Station, by the red-light district, around the Leidseplein, Bijlmer, Jan Evertsenstraat and the Mercatorplein. Also online there has been a large increase in sexual harassment and violence. These areas happen to be populated by immigrants.
Halsema claims that for a smaller group of girls and women the situation in Amsterdam is “really alarming and almost hopeless due to a negative spiral of abuse and violence, sometimes extended over several generations”. The most unsafe place for women is at home; many perpetrators are ex-partners or family members. In Amsterdam, for example, the number of registered violent incidents went up by 7 percent: from 6 183 in 2017 to 6 608 in 2018.
The figures have been a reason for Halsema to launch a campaign, the focus of which is victims of sexual intimidation and violence, on the street or online. One of the aims is to create a greater readiness to report such incidents, so that the police and the Public Prosecution Service can conduct investigations. A personal approach is also being launched for girls who have repeatedly been victims of sexual violence.
Halsema is also entering into talks with the hotel-restaurant and night club industry because personnel are likely to see the practices of pinching, intimidation and abuse. “Most do not count this as one of their responsibilities.”
For victims, safe places to live have become the most sought after, even outside the city. Social workers are also encouraged to work differently. “Social workers and parents often have little control, and there also seems to be a professional inability whereby the problems are not recognized or cases where people do not communicate properly,” says the mayor. In addition, the existing area ban that the mayor proposed on notorious nuisance offenders will also be put in place for people who annoyingly hang around near a shelter for vulnerable girls, or who are demonstrably sexually intrusive on the street.
The causes of sexual intimidation and violence, just like the situations in which the victims find themselves, are diverse, writes Halsema. Along with classical patterns of power inequality, based on tradition or physical strength, in Amsterdam, “reactionary ideas about the equality of men and women have reappeared”.
She refers to a study in which it is alleged that rising religious fundamentalists as well as “secular extreme-right movements” encourage and justify hate toward women. “Under the mask of a restoration of traditional role patterns, whereby women are subordinate to the demands and wishes of men, a woman’s ‘no’ is openly doubted or ignored. With the presence of religious fundamentalism in our local society, there is even talk of the re-entry of age-old and forbidden phenomena such as forced marriages and female circumcision.”
Femke Halsema represents the party GroenLinks, which has never questioned immigration as the only possible reason for the surge of crimes targeting women and girls. Instead, she is trying to blame men in general and in particular conservative men. The irony was not lost on Geert Wilders, who tweeted in response: “How did that happen?” with a picture of Muslim men verbally harassing a Dutch girl.
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) February 4, 2020
Halsema writes that almost all woman in Amsterdam have felt unsafe, either in public spaces or in the private domain. “The same goes for LGBHQ people. Walking hand in hand can be risky. Being alone can put your safety and physical integrity at risk. Not only on the street, but also behind closed doors, in houses, hotels and schools, the security and freedom of a portion of Amsterdamers cannot always be guaranteed. This is not only sad, it is also unacceptable.”
Amsterdam earlier introduced a ban on street intimidation, but it is not enforced in the capital city because the court in the Hague earlier ruled that the similar Rotterdam provision is not legally valid. According to the judges, such a ban can only be introduced by the Second and First Chambers of Parliament.