Four teenagers have been arrested in connection to several attacks involving men visiting gay cruising spots in the Netherlands.
Over the past few months, several men have been attacked within the Dutch area of Noord-Brabant. Many of these cases involve men being beaten with batons, pepper-sprayed, tasered, and more, according to the NL Times. But, again, four teenagers aged 18 and 19 were arrested last Thursday, September 2, in connection to these multiple crimes.
“I think that’s the worst thing that they went there with batons, with pepper spray and with a taser,” a spokesperson for the Keelbos Foundation, an organization dedicated to gay meet ups, said after a recent attack in Reek. “It’s not only bad in Reek, we are also receiving more and more reports in other places. We are very busy with it. We talk to the people, provide information. We hope that a report will be filed, because that rarely happens.”
“It’s been miserable here for months. An acquaintance of mine was pelted with eggs, he showed me the bruises. When I was in Reek a few weeks ago, someone ran out of the bushes in a panic, right through the brambles. He had been threatened and verbally abused, and ran, for his life, right through the brambles. He was covered in blood,” the spokesperson continued. “Someone had just left who had been sprayed with pepper spray, I was talking about that with another visitor. Cars were smeared with pizza and milkshakes. They once tried to block the exit of the parking lot, so that the visitors could not leave.”
The Netherlands is considered one of the world’s most progressive countries when it comes to LGBTQ rights and acceptance. It was the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage back in 2001. Even before that, homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness in 1973 and a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation in the military shortly followed.
The Equal Treatment Act of 1994 also banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas. That was then extended in 2019 to include discrimination based on gender identity and expression. With that in mind, the news of hate crimes focused on men in gay cruising spots is disappointing.
The COC, another LGBTQ organization in the Netherlands, commented on the situation while talking to local news source Brabants Dagblad.
“This is not spontaneous violence, as happens in the nightlife crowd, in this situation it was deliberately sought out. People went there, with serious items, to commit serious violence. That is shocking,” said COC Noord-Oost-Brabant member Geert Glaudemans.
Glaudemans then added that most likely, there have been more incidents than the ones that were reported. Some men, however, may not have reported their attacks due to fear of being outed.
“Because they are in a different situation at home,” Glaudemans reasoned. “They are married, have a family, are looking for an outlet or love excitement. People with a big wallet could move to a hotel, but these kinds meeting places will always exist. Municipalities do not like to recognize them, and they are often under tension, because the site is also used by other visitors for other purposes. But if a gay meeting place is closed, there will always be another place.”