The Mayor of Cologne is facing criticism after saying women should adopt a "code of conduct" to prevent future sexual assaults in the city.
Henriette Reker made a speech on Tuesday after around 1,000 men took over an area in an "organised" mass attack on New Years Eve. About 90 women made complaints to police, many relating to sexual assault and one woman said she was raped.
In her first public appearance since the incident, Reker instructed women on how they could protect themselves.
The proposed code of conduct included telling women to stay in groups, not be separated, always try and keep their distance and always stay an arms length away from strangers.
“There’s always the possibility of keeping a certain distance of more than an arm’s length – that is to say to make sure yourself you don’t look to be too close to people who are not known to you, and to whom you don’t have a trusting relationship," she said.
She also advised women to not be in a celebratory mood.
Social media users across the world slammed Reker's remarks, with some branding her comments as "victim blaming".
Her comments saw the hashtag #einarmlaenge (an arm’s length) trend in Germany, while in the UK, the founder of the Women's Equality Party spoke out about the issue:
Cologne's female mayor: women must "maintain arm's length distance to strangers". Everything about this depresses https://t.co/8qkrawHnmj— Catherine Mayer (@catherine_mayer) January 5, 2016
Whilst other Twitter users followed suit:
How about a code of conduct for the men? "1. Don't assault women. 2. See point 1." https://t.co/gXsbtHhGIq— fleetstreetfox (@fleetstreetfox) January 6, 2016
Unbelievable. Cologne Mayor reacts to migrant mass sexual assault by giving “guidance” to young German women on proper dress & behaviour— A Libertarian Rebel (@A_Liberty_Rebel) January 5, 2016
The Guardian reported that the mayor had reacted with surprise to the initial question and her struggle for an answer could have demonstrated that she was caught off guard.
Meanwhile a British woman who was visiting Cologne, and involved in the attacks, described the scenes.
She told the BBC: "They were trying to hug us, kiss us. One man stole my friend's bag.
"Another tried to get us into his 'private taxi'. I've been in scary and even life-threatening situations and I've never experienced anything like that."
Police across the city are still searching for the perpetrators of the attack.
The men involved in the attack were described as drunk and aggressive and largely of “Arab or North African” appearance, by police.
City police chief Wolfgang Albers described the incident as a “completely new dimension of crime”.
Whilst Arnold Plickert, head of the police trade union in NRW, told the Deutsche Presse Agentur "what we’ve been able to establish is that this is an organised method”.