Two in three young women in the Netherlands were harassed on the street within the space of one year, figures from national statistics agency CBS have shown.
Half of the girls and women were subjected to wolf whistles while a quarter were followed, the survey, the first of its kind carried out by the agency, showed.
Most reports of verbal intimidation were made by women aged 18 to 21 but 70% of 14 to 18 year olds were also harassed when going about their normal business.
Hissing, wolf whistling or calls are among the most frequent forms of harassment. A third of the women felt unsafe or afraid when this happened. Of the women who were followed, 85% felt frightened and unsafe.
One in three men also said they had experienced some form of harassment or intimidation while out walking.
Earlier efforts to curb street intimidation in Rotterdam and Amsterdam by issuing a so-called ‘hissing ban’ were scuppered by a court in The Hague which said it contravened the right to freedom of speech.
At the moment people who verbally harass others are only given a warning. There are, however, plans to make street intimidation a punishable offence.
According to sociologist Mischa Dekker, the CBS survey is yet another to focus on victims and their experience.
‘It is of course important to make this visible and take it seriously but the solution to the problem does not lie with the victims,’ he said.
‘Research shows that the perpetrators are mostly men. It would interest me to find out the intention of man who feels the need to whistle at a woman and base policy on that,’ he told the Parool.
The Netherlands is currently in the grip of the Voice of Holland scandal which has seen some prominent Dutch artists accused of the sexual harassment of girls participating in the talent show.
Leading women’s organisations, businesses and unions have set up a petition for better laws to prevent sexual harassment at work
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