World

After Anti-Gay Attack, Men Hold Hands In Solidarity

| by Michael Doherty

Men are holding hands in solidarity after an attack on a gay couple in the Netherlands.

Jasper Vernes-Sewratan and Ronnie Sewratan-Vernes were walking home from a party in Arnhem when a group of six to eight men and teenagers reportedly attacked the couple with bolt cutters. The couple said the group yelled offensive slurs at them before the attack, according to News.com.au.

Sewratan-Vernes has a severed lip and lost four teeth, while Vernes-Sewratan had injuries to his legs, back, chest and ribs from the attack.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the attack "terrible."

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Since the attack, men across the world have been sharing photos of themselves walking hand-in-hand to show support for the couple and for gay rights.

Barbara Barend, who founded a Dutch magazine, tweeted, "Can this whole week all men (straight and gay) please just walk hand in hand..."

"We think it is quite normal in the Netherlands to express who you are," said the country's liberal D66 party leader Alexander Pechtold, who was photographed holding the hand of D66 party financial specialist Wouter Koolmees.

Users shared the photos online using the hashtag #allemannenhandinhand.

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"Proud of [Alexander Pechtold] for leading by example," tweeted Dutch politician Lousewies van der Laan. "We want a country where men can safely walk hand in hand."

Sportsmen, police officers, businessmen and religious leaders have joined in the online trend to show their support, CNN reports.

Workers at the Dutch embassies in London, Canberra and the United Nations in New York also posted images in support of the couple.

Tanja Ineke, from COC, an organization that advocates for LGBT rights, has written to Minister Edith Schippers to ask the government to focus on protecting and helping LGBT people, through better education and harsher punishments for attacks, according to The Telegraph.

Although the Netherlands was the first country to legalize gay marriage in 2001, Philip Tijsma, public affairs manager for COC Nederland, said that the country still has progress to make.

"While some may think of the Netherlands as some sort of 'gay paradise,' the truth is that the layer of acceptance in this country is thinner than many people think," said Tijsma in 2015, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage in the U.S. "About 7 in 10 LGBT people say they have been confronted with physical and/or verbal violence because of their identity."

"Plus, many LGBT students have a difficult time in high school, are bullied and see suicide rates that are almost five times higher than average," he added. "The fight for equality continues."

A 20-year-old man, a 16-year-old and two 14-year-olds have reportedly been arrested in connection with the attack on the couple.

Sources: CNN, News.com.au, The Telegraph / Photo credit: William Rutten/Instagram

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