Check on unwanted attention in Utrecht

Check on unwanted attention in Utrecht

WOLF-WHISTLING: Could end in prosecution in Utrecht Photo credit: CC/plenty.r.

A pilot scheme in Utrecht will authorise specially-trained street wardens to report any signs of sexual intimidation that they witness in the city.

Hissing, making sexual remarks, verbal intimidation or following people in public places could lead to prosecution under changes in sexual offences’ bylaws that come into force on July 1, city hall announced.

A 2022 investigation by the Statistics Netherlands (CBS) revealed that two-thirds of young women are harassed on Netherlands’ streets each year.

Wolf whistles, hissing and unwanted comments calls were the most frequent forms of harassment and a third of the women felt unsafe or afraid when this happened.  A quarter of the women had been followed, with 85 per cent saying they had felt frightened and unsafe.

One in three men told the CBS they had experienced some form of harassment or intimidation while out walking.

Nevertheless, two-thirds of cases of verbal intimidation were reported by women aged between 18 and 21 although 70 per cent of girls in the 14 to 18 age group had also been harassed.

“Sexual intimidation on the street is enormously humiliating and embarrassing to victims,” Utrecht mayor Sharon Dijksma said.

“I’m pleased that we have got new instruments to tackle the perpetrators and protect the victims.”

Nevertheless, police and the unions representing wardens have voiced concerns about the legislation.

Rotterdam brought in similar legislation in 2018 but the courts there decided that the ban clashed with freedom of speech rights.  The tribunal added that only the national government could introduce restrictions like these, not local authorities.

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Written by

Linda Hall

Originally from the UK, Linda is based in Valenca province and is a reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering local news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at