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Something in the air

Demonstration for women's rights in Cologne. "Keine Gewalt gegen Frauen" (no violence against women)

Demonstration for women’s rights in Cologne. “Keine Gewalt gegen Frauen” (no violence against women)

It wasn’t usual for me what I experienced nearly two weeks ago. On my way back home from work a group of boys passing by started whistling and singing songs in a language that was not English, Hindi, Urdu or German, the languages I recognize. It shocked me as it had never happened to me during my three years long stay in Germany. It shocked me even more when a similar incident happened to me again a few days later. It looks like something has changed or is in the process of changing. Either the boys didn’t fear the strict rules about crimes against women or they didn’t care to respect women the way I have so far seen Germans doing.

Coming from India and having experienced such episodes all along it wasn’t too big to mention to anyone. But after the news about the incidents at Cologne central station started spreading, it all came back to me. Around a thousand men had allegedly misbehaved and groped women on New Year’s Eve. Things are not the same any more. There is something in the air.

Registration of refugees in Passau

Registration of refugees in Passau

I remember the days three years ago when I had to go to a dinner late at night and I was scared of stepping out of the house alone. At that time a friend had scolded me saying that I was not in India or any other country where girls are not so safe at night. I was in Germany. Since then I have seen girls dressed glamorously as if coming back from a party late at night on several occasions. Sometimes they even had a bicycle. Sometimes just walking. But it never occurred to me that something might happen to them because they were alone. Such is the Germany I have known. Now I don’t feel the same.

It doesn’t take much to tag you as a feminist if you openly criticize men’s attitudes. Well, for many feminism might be the much widely used term for it, but what makes me uncomfortable is tagging. Similarly, talking about foreigners in Germany very easily makes one a racist and an anti-refugee person these days, which again bothers me. The point I want to make here is that I want to talk about the changes I am experiencing these days in Germany as a foreign woman without being tagged. Let’s face it. Things do seem to have changed.

Some say that the people behaving indecently at Cologne central station were “refugees.” I, having experienced the change, won’t say that the ones who behaved with me in the indecent manner looked like those who had left behind everything in their own country and are striving hard for a fresh beginning in the new country. They looked very well off and spoilt. I would like to emphasize here that I have no intention of supporting a criminal if he is a refugee. My point here is that judgment on the basis of prejudice is not the right way of dealing with problems.

The scene in front of Cologne central station

The scene in front of Cologne central station

I don’t know who the people are who behaved so badly on New Year’s Eve. I leave it to the authorities to decide. All I know and want as a woman is the respect that this country has always given to the women living here: A sense of space, security and strength.

Dealing with a problem by linking it to another problem and trying to resolve the issue with the influence of the moment is not the answer. Germany has always dealt with its issues from the times it reinvented itself after World War II. It is an example for many in the world. Media houses, individuals and campaigns should not be able to influence justice. Culprits should know that this kind of change has no place in this country. As the police have identified most of the alleged attackers at Cologne central station as foreigners, these people need to be told in strong words that whichever country they go to, they have to abide by the law of the land.

Author: Samrah Fatima

Editor: Marjory Linardy



Cologne – Can group dynamics lead to sexual violence?

On New Years’s Eve, hundreds of men sexually harassed women in public. How could this happen? What are the impacts of group dynamics in such a situation? Dr. Barbara Krahé, a social psychology professor, explains. (From January 11, 2016)

Violence against women in Pakistan often met with ‘state inaction’

Eight years into Pakistan’s democratic transition, violence against women is still endemic, a new ICG report found. The group’s Samina Ahmed talks about why biased attitudes towards women lie at the heart of the problem. (From April 9, 2015)

No ‘safe’ asylum for female refugees in Europe

Female migrants coming to Europe are exposed to physical and sexual violence while living in cramped shelters with other refugees. But cultural prejudices and trauma make it difficult for them to talk about abuse. (From October 13, 2015)


14.01.2016 | 22:21