#MeToo in Denmark: Copenhagen mayor resigns over sexual harassment scandals

Copenhagen’s Lord Mayor Frank Jensen has announced he is to resign and step away from politics after a series of accounts of sexual harassment had left him on the brink.

#MeToo in Denmark: Copenhagen mayor resigns over sexual harassment scandals
Copenhagen Lord Mayor Frank Jensen announces his resignation on October 19th. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Jensen, who is also a deputy leader of the governing Social Democratic party, announced his resignation on Monday afternoon after previously signalling he intended to stay on as mayor of the Danish capital.

He is the latest high-profile figure in Danish politics to be confronted by accounts of sexism and inappropriate conduct as the country’s reignited #MeToo debate continues to reach a previously unseen scope.

Last week, Morten Østergaard, leader of the Social Liberals, stood down from his position after admitting he was at the centre of internal sexual harassment complaints in the party.


The Social Democrats now find themselves also deeply embroiled, after Jensen announced his resignation from both of his senior positions at a press briefing on Monday.

A series of accounts detailing inappropriate conduct and sexual harassment by Jensen towards party and municipal colleagues and media figures have emerged in recent days. The accounts, which span regular intervals dating back to 2004, were initiated by an article published on Friday evening by Jyllands-Posten in which two women gave accounts of harassment.

He was also accused on Sunday of exposing the identity of a woman who gave an anonymous account of harassment to Jyllands-Posten.

The woman, Cecilie Sværke Priess, is the leader of the Copenhagen section of the Social Democrats’ youth party. She had previously told Jyllands-Posten she knew of eight cases of harassment involving Jensen and called for the mayor to go.

The nature of the various accounts of sexual harassment by Jensen against the women includes moving his hand on to an inner thigh at a bar; on another occasion repeatedly touching a woman’s leg; licking women’s necks and ears at a Christmas party under the influence of alcohol; and giving Priess an unsolicited kiss at Fælledparken in Copenhagen in May 2019. Jensen has denied the latter incident took place.

Although the Social Democratic majority representation at Copenhagen City Hall had said it supported Jensen, other parts of the party including its youth wing called for him to step back from his leadership position, while allied parties said he should go on leave.

“This would have overshadowed the political work I want to be engaged with,” Jensen said on Monday in a statement reported by Danish media including DR.  

He also said he would “step back from politics”.

Jensen, an influential figure both locally in Copenhagen and nationally for the Social Democrats, has a number of other positions including board positions with the Rockwool Foundation and municipal employer interest organisation KL. He also chairs Udbetaling Danmark, the national administrator of the country’s social security system.

He will continue in his board roles, DR reports.

Following a ‘crisis meeting’ at Copenhagen City Hall on Sunday, Jensen issued an apology, saying he was “incredibly sorry that I have acted inappropriately towards [Danish: krænket, ed.] women”.

He said on Monday that he was unhappy with the course of events that led to his resignation.

“We have a large number of cases that have been told to the press and have to respond to them without knowing what’s behind it,” he said.

The now-former Copenhagen mayor said he believes the extent of the problem should first have been looked fully into by lawyers tasked by the Social Democrats with scrutinising the issue of sexism in the party.

“This is not worthy of being called a trial,” he said.

“I have been minister of justice in this country and I have protected the rule of law. I have ensured that you are not guilty until this has been proved. We need to be careful in this regard,” he said.

Fellow Social Democrat Lars Weiss will take over the Copenhagen Mayor position for the time being, DR reports.

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‘When I said no’: Danish women in campaign against sexual assault victim blaming

Women in Denmark have joined a social media movement responding to victim blaming of women who have suffered sexual violence and harassment.

'When I said no': Danish women in campaign against sexual assault victim blaming
Illustration file photo: Issei Kato/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpi

Using the hashtag #dajegsagdefra, which translates loosely to ‘when I said no’, women have described assault, attacks, violence, harassment and humiliation against them which occurred or continued after they rejected the advances of an attacker.

The hashtag began to trend in response to social media comments suggesting women can avoid being assaulted simply by firmly ‘saying no’ (ved at sige fra). Such comments have been criticised as an attempt to place responsibility for sexual assault, violence and harassment with victims.

The discussion is linked to Denmark’s #MeToo debate, which remains a prominent issue in the country after thousands of women shared stories of sexual harassment in late 2020.


 In the hashtagged tweets, the women describe situations of sexual assault or harassment which escalated after they told the aggressor to stop.

Kirstine Holst, the chairperson of support organisation Voldtægtsofres Vilkår, is among those to have shared personal accounts.

“When I said no I was held by the throat and raped”, Holst’s tweet reads.

Another voice in the Danish debate, Khaterah Parwani, is also among those to have tweeted using the hashtag.

Parwani is director of Løft, an organisation which works against negative social control.

She described several incidents in which she was subjected to violence and abuse after saying no to an aggressor, including being “unrecognisable at hospital” after an attack and “beaten up in a car and lying bleeding on a wet pavement”.

A number of Twitter uses in Denmark also highlighted on Tuesday a report issued by police in North Zealand of an incident in which a 22-year-old man punched and kicked a 15-year-old girl after she asked him to stop whistling at her and friends, and told him her age.

That incident occurred in the town of Espergærde.