Sexual violence is not "collateral damage"

8 January Jan 2016 1154 08 January 2016
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European Women’s Lobby’s German members from the Deutscher Frauenrat respond to the violent attacks on women in Cologne and other German cities urging the State to prevent attacks on women in the public space and to protect them accordingly

Sexual violence is not `collateral damage` of street robbery or other crimes”. Mona Küppers is firm and decisive, commenting the organised violence of men against women which took place in a public space and under the eyes of the police on new year’s eve in Cologne. She is the president of Deutscher Frauenrat (National Council of German Women's Organizations), an umbrella organisation which gathers together more than 50 nation-wide women's associations and organizations, German members of the European Women’s Lobby. According to the police 121 women filed criminal complaints for robbery and sexual assault on Wednesday, including two allegations of rape.

“We demand an intensified search for the perpetrators and their severest punishment. The state, especially the police, is obliged to prevent attacks on women in the public space and to protect them accordingly.” She said, expressing the outrage on behalf of the entire Deutscher Frauenrat’s board: "Who were the addressees of those brutal acts, we are asking ourselves? Was it our democratic order according women and men the same rights and obligations? Or our public authorities, which faced the organised terror helplessly and inactively? Or women, who are taught by these criminal acts to leave the night to men? Or was it a an attack against the present refugee policy in Germany, as so many suspect? The Deutscher Frauenrat more than once has urged Chancellor Merkel and the Minister of the Interior, de Maizière, to enhance the protection of women from violence. Our recent demands applied mainly to women refugees, now it must be extended to all women in our country."

“What happened on New Year is not acceptable," Mrs Merkel said in a statement. "These are repugnant criminal acts that a state, that Germany will not accept. The feeling women had in this case of being at people's mercy, without any protection, is intolerable for me personally as well (…) That's why it is important that everything that happened there will be brought to the table. We must examine again and again whether we have already done what is necessary in terms of deportations from Germany, in order to send clear signals to those who are not prepared to abide by our legal order."

The situation has grown extremely tense in Germany, after the identification of the attackers as North African or Arab. Although, according to Associated Press, there is little solid information so far on who committed the assaults, the unexcusable New Year’s Eve violence could be politically exploited to feed hatred and fear against Angela Merkel’s open-door policy toward migrants. While members of Cologne's large Muslim community have joined the chorus condemning the string of assaults, some German politicians have suggested that the Muslim attitudes toward women might have played a role in the attacks. Thorsten Craemer of the far-right fringe party ProNRW, which organised a protest in front of Cologne's main train station, the site of the attacks, declared that "This is where Merkel's irresponsible immigration policy will lead us." Antonia Rabente, a 26-year-old student and union activist who was among the counter protesters declared to ABC News her anguish for the NYE events, all the while underlying the preoccupation for the political exploitation of the violence. "On the one hand there's a feeling that what happened is wrong and many people are concerned about this. But where people are split is in how to respond," she said. "I think it's important to keep the focus on the women who were affected. They (mustn't be) misused for attacks on the right to asylum."

Photo by Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images

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