The mayor of Cologne came under fire on Wednesday after suggesting a code of conduct for women in response to a wave of sexual assaults likely committed by men of North African descent inflamed Germany's ongoing migration debate.
People took to social media under the hashtag #EineArmlaenge - German for "an arm's length" - to lambast Mayor Henriette Reker's suggestion that women keep a certain distance from strangers on the street and remain within groups to avoid being singled out.
The mass attacks, which took place on New Year's Eve near Cologne's main train station and included more than 90 alleged sexual assaults and one rape, are understood to have been perpetrated by men of North African descent.
Though it remains unclear whether the men are asylum seekers or second-generation immigrants, the crimes have unleashed a fierce debate in Germany about the repercussions of allowing 1.1 million migrants to enter the country over the course of 2015.
Reker, who made international headlines in October after being stabbed on the campaign trail due to her pro-refugee stance, has been accused of victim-blaming. Her critics argue that her focus should be on ramping up security and bringing the attackers to justice.
Police in Hamburg and Stuttgart have said that similar crimes were committed amid New Year's Eve revelry in the cities, though on a significantly smaller scale.
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