In June 2021, the human rights organisation wrote that sexual violence among Dutch students is relatively common: one in ten female students are raped during their studies. Amnesty defines this as all types of penetration without consent.
In addition, many victims do not know where to get help within their institution. Only 3 per cent had contacted a confidential adviser at the institution, according to a survey.
Since then, Amnesty International has asked universities and universities of applied sciences to endorse a manifesto against sexual violence, which the organisation has drawn up in consultation with students. Twenty-three institutions have now signed or will do so soon.
By signing the manifesto, the educational institutions pledge that they will take measures ‘to ensure that everyone within the educational institution feels responsible for a culture in which sex is based on equality and consent’.
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There are six action points. For example, students must be able to attend workshops, such as a training course in which bystanders learn how to intervene in the event of transgressive behaviour. Staff will also be taught how to handle topics like sexual violence in a ‘trauma-sensitive’ manner. All complaints procedures must be in order as well.
Universities and universities of applied sciences can implement the measures as they wish. According to Amnesty, Leiden University is a good example. Workshops, poster campaigns and theatre performances are organised for students at the university, and there is a website with information. There are also support groups for victims of sexual violence. Erasmus University also drew up a complementary plan, including workshops and training and awareness campaigns on campus and during Eureka Week.
Some institutions do not want to sign the manifesto for practical reasons. Utrecht University, for instance, prefers to draw up its own action plan. And TU Delft sees little benefit in offering workshops for all students.
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Statements of support
On Thursday, Amnesty handed over 56,000 statements of support for a better law against rape to the Dutch House of Representatives, ahead of a parliamentary debate. The law has already been passed, but it will only take effect in 2024. The organisation believes that is too late. Staff discussed the matter with MPs.
According to the new legislation, coercion or violence do not always have to be involved for an act to be considered rape. Any form of sexual contact without mutual consent will be a criminal offence. In addition, sexual harassment will be prohibited both online and offline, as will sexting with minors.