Protest and petition call for better protections against sexual harassment
Leading women’s organisations, businesses and unions have mounted a petition for better laws to prevent sexual harassment at work, in the wake of a Dutch ‘me too’ scandal at television talent show The Voice of Holland.
The 36 organisations, including union the FNV, Rutgers sexual health and reproductive rights campaign group and the Dutch Women’s Council, want new laws to ensure employers take preventative action against sexual harassment and abuse, with confidential counsellors and procedures for victims to report problematic behaviour without fearing the consequences.
Meanwhile, a ‘no blame, but change’ demonstration and march planned for Amsterdam on Saturday has been moved to the Museumplein due to the expected large numbers of protesters.
The public prosecutor has called on women who have experienced sexual harassment while appearing on The Voice to make a report to police – rather than going to format owners ITV – after an explosive documentary by BNNVARA youth YouTube channel BOOS.
Even before it was broadcast, the popular talent show was suspended, after allegations emerged against band leader Jeroen Rietbergen – who admitted he had had ‘sexual contact’ with women involved in the show. Coach and rapper Ali B was also accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour, something that he and his lawyer Bart Swier have strongly refuted.
One of the show’s directors was mentioned by 15 women as allegedly transgressing sexual boundaries. Singer Marco Borsato allegedly touched six contestants, including three under-age girls inappropriately. His lawyers have yet to respond.
The allegations have led to an outpouring of anger, including rage at media mogul John de Mol, for appearing to lay part of the blame for continued sexual harassment of female contestants on the woman themselves.
De Mol told the BOOS documentary makers in an interview that ‘the broader problem is that women do not tend to report this sort of thing immediately’ due to ‘some sort of shame.’
The comment led to a full page advert in the AD from the female staff at Talpa, De Mol’s production company, saying ‘Dear John, It’s not the women who are the problem.’
Last year, Amsterdam former deputy mayor of housing Laurens Ivens resigned after formal complaints that he had sent sexually inappropriate emails and messages. According to the Parool, he had been warned about his behaviour in 2019, after several complaints from female colleagues, and in 2020 there were five complaints.
Mayor Femke Halsema told the council it had not been possible to start a formal investigation until there were formal complaints made, in 2021. This investigation found Ivens had breached behavioural guidelines, something he admitted. Halsema said she wanted to ensure informal signals could be investigated in future.
The new petition and protest aim to address concerns that there are not enough protections in the Dutch workplace to ensure sexual harassment and abuse are not swept under the carpet, and that victims can report problematic behaviour without risking their own careers.
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