Dutch men hold hands in solidarity with gay couple

Dutch leader of the Democrats 66 (D66) party Alexander Pechtold (L) and Financial specialist of D66 party Wouter Koolmees (R) arrive for a meeting with other Dutch political parties, in The Hague, on April 3, 2017 while they hold hands as a sign of solidarity for two men who were physical abused after holding hands in public in Arnhem, on 1 April 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ANP / Lex van Lieshout / Netherlands OUT        (Photo credit should read LEX VAN LIESHOUT/AFP/Getty Images)
Men hold hands in solidarity with gay couple
01:01 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Men all over the world are standing up to homophobia by holding hands.

From New York to London, and from Canberra to Amsterdam, famous figures and ordinary Dutch citizens have been posting images of themselves on social media with the hashtag #allemannenhandinhand (all men, holding hands).

The trend was sparked by reports of a gang attack on a gay couple, Jasper Vernes-Sewratan, 35, and Ronnie Sewratan-Vernes, 31, in Arnhem, a city in the east of the Netherlands, in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Alexander Pechtold (L) and Wouter Koolmees of the D66 party arrive for a political meeting, holding hands in solidarity with a gay couple.

According to a police statement, the men were attacked by a group of young people armed with bolt cutters. Two suspects were taken into custody and four others later reported to the police station in connection with the attack.

Vernes-Sewratan’s Facebook post about the incident, which he describes as a hate crime, has been shared more than 7,500 times and he has received thousands of supportive comments.

The hashtag in support of the couple was inspired by Barbara Barend, founder of a Dutch magazine, who tweeted Sunday, “Can this whole week all men (straight and gay) please just walk hand in hand …”

Politicians, sportsmen, actors, policemen and businessmen have all responded to the call.

Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands Lodewijk Asscher posted this picture of himself holding hands with fellow Labour Party politician Jeroen Dijsselbloem with the hashtag #allemannenhandinhand.

Since then, workers at the Dutch Embassies in London and Canberra and at the United Nations in New York have joined the campaign.

Staff at Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Center posted this Instagram photo…

…while footballers from a club in the city of Nijmegen, just south of Arnhem, shared this image. “NEC turns its back on anti-gay violence,” the post says.

Rotterdam’s police also got involved, as did two religious leaders, David van Veen and Erick Versloot, in Waarder, south of Amsterdam.

The hashtag is still gaining momentum, with people of all nationalities posting, sharing and tagging images of men holding hands.

Although the Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage, in 2001, activists say it is not yet free of homophobia.

Philip Tijsma, public affairs manager at COC Nederland, an organization that supports the LGBT community, reflected on the situation in his country in 2015, shortly after the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.

“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,” he said.

“About 7 in 10 LGBT people say they have been confronted with physical and/or verbal violence because of their identity,” Tijsma said. “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.”

“The fight for equality continues.”