Amsterdam steps up fight against sexual harassment, violence

Gender-based violence - No means no
Gender-based violence - No means nonito103DepositPhotosDeposit Photos

Amsterdam is stepping up the fight against sexual harassment and -violence against women and girls. 51 percent of Amsterdam women have faced sexual harassment on the street. Among 15 to 34 year-olds, it's even 81 percent. With a campaign and several other measures, the Amsterdam mayor and aldermen want to make clear to victims that they are not alone, and to perpetrators that sexual harassment and gender-based violence are unacceptable, the city said in a press release on Tuesday.

Sexual harassment on the street and online is a common occurrence, not only in Amsterdam, but also in the rest of the Netherlands and the world. A smaller group of girls and women also regularly face sexual violence and abuse at home, sometimes across multiple generations. Home can be the most unsafe place for these women, as many perpetrators are partners, exes, or family members.

In Amsterdam, the number of registered domestic violence incidents increased by 7 percent from 6,183 in 2017 to 6,608 in 2018. And by far not all such incidents are reported. The police and judiciary give priority to gender-based violence, but they have to know about it before they can act. This requires more awareness among victims and the people around them, the city said. Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema therefore came up with a number of measures to make sure vulnerable girls and women get the help they need and do not become isolated.

The first is a campaign with the slogan "You are not alone". It is aimed at girls and women who experience sexual harassment or violence on the street or online, with the message that the city is there for them and exploitation and harassment are not accepted. For girls and women who need someone to talk to, an Amsterdam woman will be on hand to act as friend, support and positive role model. "The friends operate under the motto 'There is a strong woman next to every Amsterdam girl' and will gradually form a movement of volunteers," the city said.

In the coming period, Amsterdam will work with the Rapporteur on Human Trafficking on how to better identify vulnerable women and girls facing violence at home. As part of that, mayor Halsema will meet with the owners and employees of night clubs, restaurants and hotels. According to the mayor, these employees may notice sexual extortion, harassment and abuse, but often think its not their role to report it. The mayor will discuss this issue with them, while also investigating whether it is possible to oblige them to report what they see.

The city is also working with the judiciary and care organizations to come up with an integral and person-orientated approach to helping girls and women with complex problems and who have been victimized multiple times. "Following the Top600 and Top400, in which perpetrators receive a personal approach, Amsterdam will now introduce personal control for victims." The mayor and aldermen will also "do their utmost" to make sure there is enough housing space for women and girls who need shelter, and will work to identify and solve problems that may slow down the aid process.