Gjesteskribent

Mayor Son Halsema

Half of Amsterdam women are intimidated on the street. The same goes for LGBHQ people.

Fra De Telegraaf: Helft Amsterdamse vrouwen op straat geïntimideerd.

Amsterdam — The city leadership of Amsterdam is greatly concerned about the safety of girls and women in Amsterdam. According to Mayor Halsema [the mayor, Groen-Links, formerly the Communist Party], girls and young women are being confronted with sexual intimidation or violence in increasing numbers. Therefore, she is announcing measures.

For the ages 15 to 34, the percentage is 81%

Research shows that 51% of women in Amsterdam have been confronted with street intimidation. For the ages 15 to 34, the percentage is 81%. Many reports come especially from the region around the Central Station, by the red-light district, around the Leidseplein [Square], Bijlmer, Jan Evertsenstraat [Street] and the Mercatorplein [Square]. Also online there is a large increase in sexual harassment and violence.

Halsema states 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.

Greater readiness to report

The figures are a reason for Halsema to begin 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, 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.”

Search for safe places

For victims, safe places to live and be sheltered 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 incompletely recognized or cases where people work past each other,” says the mayor. In addition, the existing area ban that the mayor is now putting 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.

Social workers and parents often have little control

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 reappear.”

She refers to a study in which it is written how upcoming religious fundamentalists and 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.”

“Walking hand in hand can be dangerous”

Halsema writes that almost every Amsterdam woman has 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.

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