Court says catcalling is ‘freedom of speech’ – Dirty Rotterdammers can catcall without consequences

Following a recent street harassment case in Rotterdam, RTL Nieuws reports that those guilty of the shameless act of (for example, in the mildest of cases) hissing at someone or making kissing gestures cannot be punished. Any ban that would persecute creeps would hinder their constitutional right to freedom of speech.

The court has ruled in favour of a 36-year-old street harasser who was “calling on [women], making kiss and hand gestures and running [towards] them”, reports RTL Nieuws. He harassed three women, but will not be persecuted for the same. Apparently, saying things like “hey, beautiful lady” or “hey, baby” is not legally punishable.

He had previously received a penalty from the subdistrict court judge for a fine of 200 euros, for two incidents. That sure is going to make a huge dent in his finances, wouldn’t it?

However, the judge at the Hague court said it “is not based on a legally valid penalty”. According to the court, both “verbal and physical manifestation forms of thoughts or feelings” are protected under the freedom of expression.

Should street harassers be persecuted?

From the tone of voice in the previous paragraphs, it’s easy to deduce where I stand on the issue. If our goal ultimately is to make sure women feel safe wherever they go, every crime must be punished. Of course, I am not saying the punishment should not fit the crime. I am not asking for this guy to be detained and put in jail. In my eyes, willfully making women uncomfortable, and making them feel so unsafe (he ran after them for god’s sake, who wouldn’t feel unsafe?) that the police had to be involved, is a crime that deserves a punishment which is a whole lot more severe than a couple of hundreds of euros. And remember, it is not always feasible or safe (and oftentimes not legal) for a lot of people to take matters into their own hands.

Most women deal with harassment for most of their lives. According to research by Erasmus University in 2017, 84% of women in the Netherlands (18 – 45-year-olds) deal with this phenomenon. They said, RTL Nieuws reports, “81 percent of the women ignore the behavior, 74 percent walk as fast as possible, 51 percent look disapprovingly, 26 percent try to make a joke or laugh it away. 21 percent say they are not interested and 4 percent start the conversation”. However, the most interesting statistic would be the number of women who don’t get annoyed or angry. 41% of the women said they don’t mind, and even find it flattering.

According to the study by Erasmus University, street harassment is “getting hissed at, cornered, being asked for sex or chased down the street”. It goes without saying that most of us don’t want to reach that point of contact, let alone beyond that.

What do you think? Do you think street harassers should be persecuted or be let go with no consequences? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Spoorjan/Wikimedia Commons

Kavana Desai
Kavana Desai
Coping with the aftermath of her 3-year stint in the Netherlands, Kavana is a writer, content creator and editor for DutchReview. Hailing from India, she frequently blogs about the Netherlands, being Indian in the Netherlands, and everything in between. She envisions herself to one day be the youngest person to win that Nobel Prize for Literature (she is also not very humble but welcomes only constructive criticism). In the meantime, she fills her days with writing for DutchReview, writing her master's thesis on art theft, and writing fiction that will hopefully see the light of day soon.


  1. Please edit your article: “persecuted” should be “prosecuted.” This person is persecuting the women he harasses, and he should be prosecuted for that behavior!


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