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OK, or not OK? #4

Rutgers is a firm proponent of sexual assertiveness, not only in the Netherlands but also elsewhere in the world. And rightly so, as sexual harassment is more commonplace than some of us might think. 40% of women and 13% of men in the Netherlands have experienced it personally at some time. We strongly feel that something needs to be done to reduce these figures.

While people generally consider sexual harassment unacceptable, relatively large numbers nevertheless fall victim to it. There appears to be a distinct discrepancy between what people say and how they actually behave. This is the conclusion of a recent survey into sexual harassment held among 1000 respondents, which was entitled ‘Wat vindt Nederland toelaatbaar?’ (What does the Netherlands consider acceptable?). All the more reason, therefore, for Rutgers to step up its campaign to prevent sexual violence.

going forward

In early 2017, six Dutch political parties endorsed the parliamentary agreement dubbed ‘Handen Thuis’ (Keep your hands to yourself) proposed by Rutgers. In doing so, GroenLinks, D66, PvdA, PvdD, SP and 50Plus all pledged to combat sexual harassment. Rutgers therefore decided to launch a public campaign on this issue, aimed primarily at young people, in 2017.

Ton Coenen and Dutch MPs holding the parliamentarian agreement (Credits: Martijn Beekman)
Ton Coenen and Dutch MPs holding the parliamentarian agreement (Credits: Martijn Beekman)

Safety in schools

Throughout 2016 the Dutch Inspectorate of Education received increased numbers of reports of sexual abuse and sexual harassment at schools. Something can certainly be done about it, however. Provided sexual harassment is identified at an early stage, then adequate corrective measures can also be taken. Visit the following website for further details of how to do so: Website (in Dutch).

“I view the lessons about relationships and sexuality the most enjoyable ones we do throughout the year. It is so special to witness the way the atmosphere in the classroom changes. Pupils adopt a far more open and sharing attitude to one another. This creates a highly intimate ambience in the class.’’

(A teacher of year 6)

What is acceptable, and what not?

It is difficult to talk to young people about sexual behaviour. Flemish expertise centre for sexual health, Sensoa, therefore does so using the Sensoa Flag System. This is a tool which can be used to assess the sexual behaviour of young people up to the age of eighteen, and also to make the topic discussable. It enables coaches, teachers and parents alike to identify and therefore help prevent cases of sexual harassment.

going forward

In 2017 Rutgers and Sensoa launched a joint project designed to implement the Flag System throughout Europe. An international website is to be developed for the existing flag system, which is aimed at a European target group. Rutgers has also been engaged to cooperate in the further development of the flag system. Want to learn more about the Flag System? If so, simply subscribe to the Newsletter!

Beyond the Limits

In 2016 an extension of the Flag System was introduced which is known as ‘Buiten de Lijnen’ (Beyond the Limits) and is aimed specifically at young people who have a disability or have suffered trauma. It also devotes further attention to gender and culture. Apart from contributing to its development, Rutgers joined Sensoa and the Netherlands centre for social development, Movisie, in presenting Buiten de Lijnen at a knowledge café for carers.

What are we talking about?

Numerous synonyms are used to refer to sexual harassment, while it has also been the subject of a great deal of research. As centres of expertise in their field, Rutgers and Movisie therefore opted to publish a list of the facts and figures in a white paper entitled Whitepaper ‘Seksuele grensoverschrijding en seksueel geweld’ (Sexual harassment and sexual violence, in Dutch).

“A child marriage takes place every two seconds. And this has extremely far-reaching consequences. For instance, it may prevent us from achieving the objective of ensuring that all girls receive an education.’’

Princess Mabel of Orange (Chair of Girls not Brides Netherlands)

Child marriage

The child marriages organised worldwide are a violation of girls’ basic human rights. Such arrangements often imply that the girls involved no longer attend school, while their economic opportunities are also restricted. Child marriage helps prolong both poverty and gender inequality, even extending them to the next generation. And this affects the girls themselves, families, communities and even entire nations.

Girls who become pregnant early in life have an increased risk of both complications and health problems. This is due to the fact that many are not yet fully grown. Furthermore, they often live in social isolation and are more vulnerable to violence.

Child marriage affects some 70 million girls worldwide. In fact, one in three girls in developing countries get married before the age of eighteen, and one in nine before the age of fifteen.


Yes I Do

Rutgers cooperates with several other organisations in the Yes I Do programme, in addressing issues affecting girls, including gender inequality, poverty and a lack of rights. The programme operates in seven countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Pakistan and Indonesia. Plan Nederland is in charge of the programme.

Yes I Do endeavours to make girls more assertive by providing them with both suitable information and access to health care. In addition, we pursue the implementation of improved legislation and policy through cooperation with local networks and key players in the area.

going forward

Rutgers is launching the Hello, I Am programme in Bangladesh in 2017. The programme offers girls support in the area of their personal development and sexual assertiveness. Hello, I Am applies means including edutainment and the use of local role models. Having received a grant from the IKEA Foundation to the tune of 3.5 million euro, the programme is due to run until the year 2020.

At some stage, 17% of girls and 5% of boys between the ages of twelve and twenty-five in the Netherlands have been forced to perform sexual acts against their will.


Screenshot of Can You Fix It
Screenshot of Can You Fix It

Can you fix it

A young person’s life is not easy. Other people have all sorts of expectations of you, while you are often not quite sure about your own wishes. Your body starts changing, you make discoveries and begin to experiment with sex. But how can you indicate where your boundaries lie if you do not even know yourself? What do you consider acceptable, and what not any longer?

What would you do?

Well, you can find out by playing an interactive game called Can You Fix It (Dutch). The game features video clips in which things between lovers get out of hand. And you can intervene to fix it. While the aim of the game is to win stars, you subconsciously learn to also view the situation from different perspectives. This enables you to view a problem from another person’s point of view, or perhaps recognise it from personal experience.

“Is he really going to flash that naked photo of his girlfriend to all his mates? ... Is she going to point out to him that sharing a drink does not mean that she wants to take things a step further?’’

(Young person)

Eight new clips were also added to Can You Fix It in 2016. Four of them focus on teenage pregnancy and parenthood, and four are about young LGBT people. The game itself was created by Rutgers in collaboration with STI AIDS Netherlands.

going forward

Over 2,500 sessions of Can You Fix It a month are played on computers and tablets. And during the course of 2017, the game is also to be made compatible for use on smartphones.

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