The BBC has reported that the city of Berlin was setting up “safe zones” for women for New Year’s Eve. It was very heavily reported on by RT, Sputnik and other media. New Year's Eve party in Berlin to have 'safe zone' for women

Organisers of Berlin's New Year's Eve celebrations are to set up a "safe zone" for women for the first time.


Women who have been assaulted or feel harassed will be able to get support at a special "safety zone", staffed by the German Red Cross, on Ebertstrasse.


But the idea of a special safe zone for women at large public events has not been welcomed by everyone.

Critics say it does not tackle the perpetrators of sexual violence, while some others complain it is discriminatory.

The article said “for women”, but didn’t say that it was only for women (except by saying that it’s been described as “discriminatory”), or that women are being given the option to party in women-only areas.

Examples of coverage in other media. The Daily Mail: Berlin New Year's Eve party to have a 'safe space' for women after hundreds reported being assaulted by men with migrant backgrounds at Cologne celebrations two years ago (emphasis added)

Berlin's main New Year's Eve party is to have a 'safe space' for women after hundreds reported being assaulted by men with migrant backgrounds at Cologne celebrations two years ago.

The secure zone, staffed by the German Red Cross, will be set up for the December 31 celebrations at the capital city's famous Brandenburg Gate.

Women have been told to seek help from other revellers if they feel harassed or threatened.

The New York Times: Germans Will Ring in New Year With Extra Security, Especially for Women (emphasis added)

BERLIN — While Germans are stocking up on firecrackers and Champagne to welcome the New Year, officials are setting up roadblocks and safety zones for women to ensure that festivities in cities across the country remain peaceful and safe.

For the first time this year, organizers in Berlin have designated a “women’s safety area” where girls and women who feel threatened or have been assaulted can turn for help. But it is in and around Cologne where security has been especially fortified.

Prominent Twitter users interpreted this as involving large-scale, gender-segregated areas where they can avoid sexual harassers, which is what a “safe space” (note: space rather than zone) or an “autonomous space” often refers to in English.

For example, Miranda Devine, a columnist for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, a News Corp tabloid which has the biggest circulation of any newspaper in Sydney, wrote on her verified Twitter account “Berlin New Year party to have women's zone”. Another example is this tweet (warning: all I know about him is that he is a Twitter verified user).

Mainstream media has reported that Rainer Wendt, head of a police union, said that if such interpretations were true, the zones were a bad thing. The report did not explicitly state that such interpretations were incorrect. From DW: 'Safety zone' for women in Berlin during New Year festivities

German police chiefs plan extra New Year’s Eve safeguards, two years after women were molested in Cologne. But a police trade union leader said a mooted "women's safety area" in Berlin sent a "disastrous message."

Rainer Wendt, the head of Germany's second-largest police officers' union, said a women's zone planned for the area around Berlin's Brandenburg Gate sent a "disastrous message."

"With this message, you're saying that there are safe and unsafe zones," Wendt told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper's Saturday edition. He said that this, if true, would amount to "the end of equality, freedom of movement and self-determination."

"Whoever came up with that idea has not understood the political dimension," said Wendt of the German DPoIG police trade union.

Women had a right to be safe everywhere, he said.

This very low profile, non-verified twitter user alleged that the news was being distorted by “nazis” - that there would be a space where women can report sexual assault, but not somewhere where they can stay to avoid sexual harassment. As does this tweet which referred to German-language media.

I’m concerned partially that ideological bias is at play, but also that faulty reporting is occurring when reporting about another country, especially one with a different native language.

Did Berlin set up places that could reasonably be translated from German to English as “safe zones”? If so, did these “safe zones” involve large-scale, gender-segregated areas where women can flee to, or even just spend the evening partying in?

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    I'm not even sure what's unusual about this? Or why anyone might think this is a bad idea? Don't lots of places do this? Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 5:34
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    @DJClayworth “I’m not even sure what’s unusual about this” - I agree that the claims in the question are extremely plausible. But the claim about a women’s only area is false. I think that a claim that is plausible but false is as worthwhile, or even more worthwhile, debunking than a claim that is implausible and false.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 6:35
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    @DJClayworth: "Or why anyone might think this is a bad idea?" - just to cross link within this question: Ellie's answer contains a paragraph citing why some think it is a bad idea. Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 23:20
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    This was covered with reasonable accuracy by most mainstream English-language mass media, e.g. the Guardian, CNN, or WaPo I'm not sure why you had to ask it the way you did based on RT and twittering. Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 23:23
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    RT and Sputnik aren't the most reliable reporters on Western topics. There are plenty of DE-local news sources that could have been cited. Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 6:08

5 Answers 5


The German Red Cross will put up a sign at their emergency tent and have psychologically trained staff standing by. A spokesperson for the event pointed out that the Oktoberfest in Munich has a similar arrangement since 2003 to absolutely no controversy.

Dem Magazin "bento" bestätigten Veranstalter und DRK, dass an der Unfallhilfstelle ein zusätzliches Schild mit der Aufschrift "Women's Safety Area" angebracht werde. Dort sollen Frauen, die sexuell belästigt worden sind, Hilfe finden.

"The Red Cross and the organization that runs the event confirmed to the magazine bento that at the emergency tent there would be an additional sign put up, saying 'Women's Safety Area'. Women who have been sexually harassed could find help there".

Note that even for a native speaker it is not easy to find out what is going on, since the controversy you refer to in your question plays out here as well, to a large part in the headlines and on ideological fault lines.

Here is a quote from the bento article referred to in the other quote:

In diesem Jahr gibt es lediglich ein zusätzliches Schild mit der Aufschrift "Women's Safety Area". So haben es die Sprecherin der Partyveranstalter und eine Sprecherin des DRK bento bestätigt. Es werden keine zusätzlichen Mitarbeiter eingesetzt, es ist auch kein Kriseninterventionsteam des DRK vor Ort. Die Mitarbeiter werden sich lediglich in einen kleinen Bereich im Innern des Zeltes zurückziehen können, um mit Opfern sexueller Gewalt zu sprechen. Wenn die Opfer Anzeige erstatten wollen, werden sie zur nahe gelegenen Wache der Polizei begleitet.

"This year there is nothing more than an additional sign [...]. This was confirmed by a spokeswoman for the event and a spokesperson from the Red Cross. There is no additional staff, and no special intervention team from the Red Cross. The staff can merely withdraw to a secluded area within the tent to talk to victims of sexual violence. If victim want to make a report to the police they will be accompanied there".

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    As background for the “since 2003” comment for other people reading this, some people have been alleging that sexual harassment or assault has markedly increased at German NYEs and elsewhere in Germany in the past couple of years. 2003 would predate this.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Dec 31, 2017 at 10:50
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    Does the overt usage of the language "Women" in this specify that it's women only, or that those who have been sexually harassed (regardless of gender) could utilize the services?
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 15:22
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    @Anoplexian Yes, it is available regardless of gender. Before, it was like this: There is some kind of huge party, with lots of alcohol, certainly quite some fireworks, even if forbidden - set off in packed crowd. Broken glass on the ground, and groups of people running away from firework pieces. Obviously, there will be various injuries, many minor, some more urgent. All these are handled in a large tent, which is easily visible nearby. Also, there are a decent number of ambulance vehicles distributed over the area, waiting. What's in the tent? [...] Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 16:51
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    [...] In the tent are: A number of emergency physicians and emergency assistants. In this case some burn specialist doctors, and psychologists, to handle cases like a drunken couple fighting and breaking up for new year - agitated and between way too close fireworks. Also, lots of volunteers to handle trivial issues. In case a problem can not be dealt with in the tent, there are a couple more ambulance vehicles next to the tent. You can imagine that this tent is a safety area as save as it gets, for anybody, and just any kind of problem. So, what is the problem? [...] Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 17:05
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    [...] The problem is that a woman who just had been sexually assaulted, like a teenager who experienced groping at the vulva in a dense crowd - gabbing by the pussy - will be confused and insecure staying in that crowd. But, as she has nothing that could be "medically treated", it may not be obvious to her that she can just go into that tent, feel safe, get a coffee. She can talk to the psychologist, if she likes, informally, just walking up to him - he'll be able to read her facial expression for sure. But what about that? It does not more than telling her she'll be welcome in that tent! Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 17:30

There will be an area for women to come if they feel harassed. Interestingly, this area is called "Women's Safety Area" (in English) even in German media so it seems to be the official name.

Source: Tagesspiegel.

Similar information is given in Berliner Zeitung:

Erstmalig richten die Veranstalter eine besondere Sicherheitszone für Frauen ein. Dorthin können sich Frauen wenden, die sich belästigt fühlen. Mitarbeiter des Deutschen Roten Kreuz kümmern sich dort um Betroffene. Das Areal befindet sich an der südlichen Ebertstraße neben dem DRK Bereich.

For the first time the organizers establish a special safety zone for women. Women who feel molested can turn to personell of the German Red Cross there, which will be attending to affected persons. The area is in the southern Ebertstraße alongside the Red Cross area.

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    Is this newspaper reasonably trustworthy?
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Dec 31, 2017 at 11:01
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    Tagesspiegel s a well established center-right (in effect, they would not call that themselves) Berlin newspaper (with a very good coverage of local news, even speaking as someone fromthe other end of the political spectrum). So yes, they are trustworthy. The problem is probably more the process by which the German Red Cross comes up with translations, which is usually to ask an intern.
    – user21930
    Commented Dec 31, 2017 at 11:11

RBB summarizes it after the night as:

Zum ersten Mal hatte es auf der Festmeile einen gesonderten Anlaufpunkt für Frauen gegeben, die sich sexuell bedrängt oder belästigt fühlen. Die in einem DRK-Zelt eingerichtete "Womens-Safety-Area" sei von vier Frauen aufgesucht worden, hieß es in der Nacht.

Transation: For the first time the festival mile had a special contact point for woman who feel sexually pressed or molested. The "Womens-Safety-Area" which was created within a German Red Cross tent was visited by four women, according to information in the night.

The German Red Cross has a tent where anybody who needs the services of the Red Cross can go. Within that tent they put up a sign titled "Womens-Safety-Area" to mark a specific area into which they could retreat in cases woman who wanted to report sexual assault would approach them. Given that the total visitorship of that tent despite a lot of media attention was four women the idea that this is a large-scale, gender-segregated area is false and heavily misleading.


Yes, Berlin set up one place that could reasonably be translated from German to English as a “safe zone for women”. No, this “safe zone” does NOT involve a large-scale, gender-segregated area where women can spend the evening partying in.

Multiple German and English reliable news sources have confirmed that such a safe zone specifically for women was setup for the first time this year at the biggest German New Year's Eve party, which is at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

The "women's safe zone" is NOT a separate female-only segregated area for women to party. Rather, it is an area specifically for women only (it is named "Women's Safety Area") with the following purpose, via Radio Berlin-Brandenburg online, in translation from German:

Crisis-trained Red Cross helpers are there to help women who are molested or uncomfortable. "We offer it, if anyone should have the need to talk," said the speaker of the event, Anja Marx.

The objections that were referred to in the quoted media passage in the question were voiced by the head of the German police union, Police Commander Wendt, not by people concerned about discrimination toward migrants. Rather, the head of the German police union is objecting to the formation of such areas because it signals admission of weakness and poor public safety for women in Germany. (Note that a similar women's safe zone was set up in Munich, where there was such a shelter at the 2017 Oktoberfest.) The police commander's comments do have a political aspect to them. This is what Wendt said, via Zeit online, a major media organization, in translation from German:

German police union leadership does not look well on this safety zone for women. "It says that there are zones of security and zones of insecurity," criticized its chairman Rainer Wendt in the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. That was a devastating message and the end of equal rights, freedom of movement and self-determination, he said. "Anyone who comes up with such an idea has not understood the political dimension." Women should be safe everywhere, Wendt insisted.

However, and this is important, it is the Berlin police in the Berlin branch of the German police union who initiated and supported the creation of this safe zone for women, despite Wendt's objections, (via Zeit ibid, emphasis mine 2):

The police union of Berlin had initially recommended the establishment of the "Women's Safety Area" to the event organizer, and supported the protective zone to be made available. "It has to be done to help people," tweeted the GdP, which also criticized Wendt for his statement: "To condemn security measures as a bad symbolic policy has nothing to do with policing."

Original text:

Unterstützung für die Einrichtung der "Women's Safety Area" kam hingegen von der Gewerkschaft der Polizei, die darauf hinwies, dass die Polizei Berlin dem Veranstalter eine solche Schutzzone empfohlen habe. "Es ist zu tun, was den Menschen hilft", twitterte die GdP, die zugleich Wendt für seine Äußerung kritisierte: "Sicherheitsmaßnahmen als schlechte Symbolpolitik zu verdammen, hat nichts mit Polizeiarbeit zu tun."

  • I checked the last quote for whether it appears in the text and it doesn't. The article makes claims that are factually different. It's good practice to put the original wording along with a translation to allow people to better evaluate an answer.
    – Christian
    Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 16:16
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    @Christian: I added the original paragraph (suggested edit pending) and the same quote does appear there with a reasonably accurate translation as far as I can tell. Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 20:27
  • @David Foerster : The article says the Berlin police initiated the project while the mistranslation says that the Berlin police union did. The two are different actors. It quite often happens that unions don't have the same opinion as their employer. The emphasis of the tweet is also different.
    – Christian
    Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 20:48
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    Wendt isn't head of the police union, but of one of the police unions (the second largest one). This might be important, because Wendt and the DPoIg have some rather fringe views which aren't necessarily shared by all police unions.
    – tim
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 11:24
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    @KonradRudolph I perused the other answers, and there is zero evidence that the associated sources said that the Safe Areas would be for men. They are named Women's Safe Areas, staffed with counselors from the Red Cross for women, not men. (The entire matter seems kind of overblown given that there were fewer than 10 women who availed themselves of the services, as most recently reported.) Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 21:03

The Red Cross has stated that these areas are not women-only, that anyone can use them. From CNN: Red Cross sets up 'women's safety area' in Berlin for NYE :

The Red Cross has set up a tent where women can get help if they feel unsafe on the Eberstrasse, just south of the Brandenberg Gate, the focal point of New Year's festivities in the German capital.

The Red Cross said the "resting tent" would be beside another tent offering first aid treatment.

Spokesman Ronald Riege said both tents were available to anyone -- not just women -- but that there would be a small sign saying "Women's Safety Area" at their entrance.

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