A 36-year-old Rotterdam man has been fined €200 for harassing two women in the street, in the first conviction of its kind in the Netherlands.
It has been an offence in Rotterdam to sexually harass women by hissing, intimidating them or following them in public places since the beginning of this year.
The man, seen as a test case by the public prosecution department, was convicted on the basis of evidence from street wardens rather than complaints from the women themselves.
The court was told that the man had gone up to women and attempted to strike up a conversation by saying ‘hey pretty ladies, where are you going.’
This in itself, is not an offence, the magistrate said. However, the comments were accompanied by kissing gestures and other hand movements, and in one of the two cases, the man sat next to his victim which was intimidating, the court said.
‘In short, the man is guilty of very irritating behaviour,’ the court said. ‘It is not the first time he has been charged and he has been in court on other occasions for physical abuse, shoplifting and the possession of drugs.’
Everon el F told the court that he wanted a girlfriend and this is why he had spoken to the women. ‘I meant it as a compliment. I did not realise it was an offence,’ the man is quoted as saying. He will only have to pay the fines if he re-offends within two years.
Amsterdam has also introduced new bylaws banning street intimidation but no-one has yet faced charges.
Research by Rotterdam council last year found that 94% of women aged 18 to 45 had experienced some form of intimidation, but 87% had never done anything about it.
On Thursday Rotterdam said it is expanding the ban on harassing women in the street to include lesbians, gay men, transsexuals and bisexuals as part of a new programme entitled ‘Relax, this is Rotterdam’.
The aim is to stimulate diversity and boost social interaction in a city ‘in which no-one is in the majority’, city alderman Bert Wijbenga said.
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