A Dutch official against sexual harassment

A Dutch official against sexual harassment

Mariëtte Hamer, 63, is a seasoned Dutch politician who has been tasked by the government to be their guide in seeking to change mindsets against sexual harassment and violence. She is the first commissioner in the Netherlands on the matter, and she has her own mandate for three years that she will exercise independently. She will be able to advise the Executive and Parliament, whether they ask her to or she sees fit, and she has a motto for office that is also rare in Europe. She wants the viewer, “which is all of us, to wonder why she just watched without saying anything in an episode of this kind.” Thought to stir consciences and take collective action, she has had her graphic and unexpected expression this week on national television.

On Tuesday, during a nightly gathering entitled Today Inside (something like inside today), Johan Derksen, a 73-year-old former footballer turned sports commentator, made a confession. He explained how 50 years ago he had “penetrated a woman with a candle who was unconscious after a night of heavy drinking” as a group. Although he said he wasn’t proud, he added that “these kinds of things happen when you’re young, and those were other times.” His confidence was greeted with laughter and jokes by his friends, but the next day the scandal broke out. Derksen softened the scene by assuring: “I just left the candle between her legs and then I left.” He has left the show. Talpa Network, the media conglomerate that produces it, was “extremely impressed” by what happened and promised to talk to him. The Prosecutor’s Office announced an investigation, several sponsors withdrew, the presenter and another frequent guest resigned and, finally, the broadcast has been cancelled.

In full shock, Mariëtte Hamer has described this type of television as “disappointing”. In a reaction made public by her office, she has added that it is “denigrating and painful for those who have suffered sexual violence”, because it is “a behavior that was not normal in the sixties or seventies”. And what is even more important in the work that she has assumed: “The laughter of the fellow members. All this shows how important it is to talk in the Netherlands about customs, inappropriate behavior and sexual violence”. She was commissioned to be a commissioner before the ex-soccer player’s past blew up live on screen, and the trigger was another television scandal. This January, the RTL chain indefinitely suspended broadcasts of the contest La Voz (The Voice of Holland) for alleged sexual and power abuse. This matter has grown to lead to an official investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office on four people, including the leader of the band that accompanies the aspiring singers, and one of the tutors. Hamer has declared to the newspaper De Volkskrant: “Improving the place of women is the common thread of my life”, and wants to speak to ITV Studios. It is the producer of the music contest, and the victims do not trust the inquiries also carried out by the company itself. They dare not tell what happened there. In February, a documentary was also withdrawn from another network, VPRO, after “a sexual assault” by an executive who appeared on the scene was reported.

Born in Amsterdam, Hamer studied Linguistics and has been a union leader, a Social Democrat deputy between 1998 and 2014, and also its spokesperson in Congress. She is a strong advocate of equality, she directed for almost eight years the Economic and Social Council (SER), the main advisory body of the Government and Parliament on the matter. The image of a tolerant, liberal and egalitarian country is shared in the Netherlands and is supported by certain laws, such as same-sex marriage: the first in the world, in 2000. “But regarding the place of women in society we are an old-fashioned country. There are few at the top of the companies”, Hamer herself declared to the Financial Times. Hence, it has been satisfied with the entry into force of the Diversity Law, which requires a balance between men and women in company management. In part, it has been possible thanks to her contribution within the Economic and Social Council, which brings together business representatives, workers and independent experts.

Industrious may not be a frequent adjective for a politician, but his perseverance and dedication earned him in 2021 the position of informant. She is in charge of studying the possibilities of forming a Cabinet after the elections, which took place in March of that year. She tried it between May and September in the framework of negotiations that lasted 10 months, and in her conclusions she lamented the lack of mutual trust between the parties. Although she advised a minority coalition, there was no government agreement until December. She now has three years to lead a public debate and a change in the collective mindset. For her part, the Ministries of Education and Culture —where she has her office— and Social Affairs and Employment must develop a plan against sexual violence.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.