September 19, 2020

Compliments and offensive whistles are freedom of expression in the Netherlands | Society



The compliments and the offensive whistles or of sexual dye in public spaces are part of the freedom of expression, protected by the Constitution, and the municipal norms cannot prohibit them. Only a law passed by Parliament would be worth to avoid this type of verbal harassment. This is how the Court of Appeal of the Dutch city of The Hague has ruled this Thursday, in a ruling that contradicts the directives issued in 2017 and 2018 by the Consistories of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, to stop sexual intimidation by word in the Netherlands. Last year, Everon F., 36, a neighbor of the port city, was the first sanctioned in the country for importing a group of women. They imposed a fine of 200 euros that is now without effect.

The sentence just handed down on appeal emanates from the legal path of the case of Everon F. In 2018, the Rotterdam prosecutor asked for a fine of 340 euros because, as was demonstrated, he twice pursued a group of young people with phrases like this: “ Hi girls. You are very pretty. What are you doing? Sky Are you leaving? Beautiful, you are very attractive. ” Then he sat next to her and threw kisses with his hand. The women denounced him, and during the trial, he said he was single and “were only fulfilled without bad intentions; I didn't know it was a crime. ”

The prosecutors themselves raised the case to the Hague Court of Appeal to ensure that it was legally maintained. The judges have acknowledged that "there was verbal harassment and throwing kisses," but "both fit into freedom of expression, and municipal regulations do not clearly set the limit between acceptable and intolerable behavior." The latter, the ruling adds, "is indispensable in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights." The ruling respects "the wishes of the Rotterdam City Council to fight against such offenses," but adds that "only the legislator, at the national level, is empowered to decide something like that."

Doubts about the legal validity of a municipal provision already arose in Amsterdam, in 2017, when the then mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, announced the prohibition of verbal harassment in public. It was the first City Council in the country to do so, and then it was followed by Rotterdam, but the advisors of Van der Laan had contrary opinions. The mayor, who died that same year, asked if the interdiction could clash with freedom of expression, and two of them said so. Another legal team noted that a local rule "to sanction the alteration of public order would withstand the test of the courts."

If the fines, which could amount to 4,100 euros, were appealed, the decision would depend on the judges. Just what has happened now with the neighbor of Rotterdam. Originally, the ban on the Dutch capital was approved after a survey commissioned by the Consistory found that 59% of women – from a sample of 1,000 – had suffered this harassment. Between 15 and 34 years, 8 out of 10 claimed to have been subject to insinuations and offensive whistles, or received insults if they rejected the progress of strangers.

Last May, Dutch Justice Minister Ferd Grappenhaus said he wanted to include sexual intimidation in public in the Criminal Code. According to their plans, the applicable penalties would be up to 3 months in jail, or a fine of 2,000 euros



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