Student petition against cat calling makes for safer streets in Enschende

Student's petition against cat calling leads to police enforcement in Enschende. Photo: Shutterstock

Wolf whistles, intimidating comments, unwanted touching: last summer, Myrthe van der Houwen, a student at the University of Twente, was so sick and tired of being harassed on the street that she started a petition calling for the municipality of Enschede to tackle the problem of sexual intimidation.  

It worked, according to a recent report by university newspaper U-Today. The petition has been signed more than 17,000 times since June. A motion put forward by the local city councillor demanding the mayor to take action was adopted unanimously.

The measure has led to more detentions and restraining orders, in addition to over a thousand fines. Surveillance in the city centre has been stepped up, police presence has been increased and extra enforcers, security guards and cameras have been deployed.

Enschede has also signed on to the project "Safe Cities", funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. This programme is dedicated to protecting women and girls in public spaces and on nights out. Utrecht joined the programme in 2017.

Finally, Enschende is working on an action plan to reduce sexual intimidation, including sexual street harassment, also involving the LGBT+ community.