A maximum €4,100 fine or three months in prison: that's what the executive board of the municipality of Rotterdam proposes to the city council. The idea is to make sexual harassment on the streets illegal starting from 1 January 2018.
What’s meant by sexual harassment on the streets? Comments or behaviour that make women feel impeded, hurt, threatened, or restricted in their freedom. Examples include catcalling, hissing, calling names, asking for sex, or chasing. From next month on, Rotterdam law enforcers will start identifying sexual harassment on the streets and warning the perpetrators. Meanwhile, the executive board of the municipality is talking to the prosecutor’s office about the measures to be taken. Law enforcers will receive specialised training, and investigating officers will be hired to help enforce the law.
Not an uncommon event
The plan of action was created together with, among other parties, the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Earlier this year, criminologists Tamar Fischer and Natascha Sprado published their research on catcalling in Rotterdam. As it turned out, 84% of the women experience sexual harassment on the streets on a regular basis! And many of them have changed their behaviour because of it. The researchers also concluded that women prefer an approach that focuses more on awareness, instead of wishing for a criminal law.
In addition to making sexual harassment punishable, the municipality wants to open a hotline for victims and bystanders. Also it plans a citywide campaign to strengthen awareness that sexual harassment is not normal and not acceptable. Perpetrators must be confronted with the consequences of their behaviour.