Dutch cabinet, MPs angered by Cologne mayor's mass sex assault remarks

Henriette Reker (Photo: Raimond Spekking/Wikimedia Commons)Henriette Reker (Photo: Raimond Spekking/Wikimedia Commons)

The remarks made by the mayor of Cologne about the very high number of sexual assaults in the German city during New Year's lead to fierce criticism from Dutch politicians. Mayor Henriette Reker suggested that women should keep strangers "at arms length to avoid sexual harassment". Dutch Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher calls this statement "completely the wrong signal" that creates the impression that the victims could have done something to stop it.

At a press conference at which Reker commented on the incidents in her city on New Year's Eve for the first time, she said: "There's always the possibility of keeping a certain distance of more than an arm's length - that is to say to make sure yourself you don't look to be too close to people who are not known to you, and to whom you don't have a trusting relationship", the Guardian quotes her.

Asscher, also the Minister of Social Affairs, speaks out against the sexual violence on his Facebook page. "Sexual violence is a horrific affront to human dignity." He writes that the Cologne mayor probably meant well by giving women the tip to keep men at arm's length during events, "but it's a completely wrong signal.  Every woman has the right to freedom and safety in our society, and after something bad happened it is not right suggest that the victim herself could have done something about it. The short skirts argument is fortunately no longer acceptable to trivialize sexual violence."

According to the Volkskrant, a total of 106 women filed complaints with the police about incidents New Year's Eve incidents in the German city, which is only 65 kilometers away from the Dutch border. Three quarters of the complaints are about sexual violence, two women were raped. Many women reported being harassed by groups of drunk and aggressive men, many of north African and Arabic appearance.

A number of Dutch Parliamentarians took to Twitter to express their disgust about the incidents, and their astonishment about Reker's advice.

"You hope that it's a sick joke... upside down world", D66 MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma tweeted.

"Excuse me? And what else must women do about a number of men that misbehave... no short skirts?" was PvdA MP Keklik Yucel's comment, with the hashtag "fail"

PVV leader Geert Wilders also had something to say: "A code of conduct for women?? Total madness, women are victims not offender. Arrest and deport perpetrators quickly!" he tweeted. Wilders also set some questions to Prime Minister Mark Rutte about the events in Cologne. Among other things, he wants to know why the borders are still open and why Rutte "keeps putting Dutch women in danger by massively allowing asylum seekers".