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MeToo: Towards Women's Assertion

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  8 April 2018 12:00 AM GMT

Sanhita Saikia

Even though civil rights activist Tara Burke started the Me Too movement over a decade ago, the global response to American actress Alyssa Milano’s tweet on October 15, 2017 took many, including Burke, by surprise. Milano urged women to use the phrase “me too” to speak out about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment.The # MeToo rocked the world on social media overnight and there were similar movements in multiple languages, including Arabic, French, Hindi, and Spanish. Today, women in 85 different countries are using the hashtag to demand change and bring attention to the violence and harassment they face in daily life.

#MeToo is not about campaigns, protests and speeches like other social-media activism, but an attempt to make people understand the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in society. Recent revelations about the alleged abuses of Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Jimmy Savile, R Kelly and Larry ssar have proven that truth has power. Existing women’s movements all over the world have spent decades laying the groundwork for what is happening today. By breaking down the taboos that have traditiolly silenced conversations about women’s rights and raising awareness, these earlier movements paved the way for #MeToo to become a global phenomenon .

According to the World Health Organization, one in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence, and almost one-third of women who have been in a relationship put up with physical or sexual domestic violence. Another 0.3 to 11.5 per cent of women reported sexual violence by someone other than a partner since the age of 15. In the European Union alone, 33 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15, while five per cent in the same age range have been raped.

Victories on issues about voting rights, sexual and reproductive health, and equality under the law have been achieved through women’s movements around the world. Yet there is more work to be done: women in Saudi Arabia still live under the repressive male guardianship system, unmarried women in Iran cannot easily access reproductive health services, and women throughout the world are still fighting for equal pay. But recent developments have encouraged women across the globe to be more optimistic about the prospects of change.

Though the hashtag campaign had been less visible in Asia, Africa, and the Arab world, distinct episodes show how the movement is slowly making gains in conservative societies. In Japan, where a culture of silence persists when it comes to sexual assault and harassment, Rinko kajiri, a rape victim, spoke about her ordeal after 20 years, encouraged by the global #MeToo movement. The hashtag movement has gained momentum across Chinese universities and is posing a unique challenge to Chi’s male-domited authoritarian regime.

In Pakistan, the topics of rape and sexual abuse are a taboo. But with the recent rape and murder of Zaib Ansari by a suspected serial killer, three high-profile Pakistani women spoke of their experiences with childhood sexual abuse on social media, adding the #MeToo hashtag.

India has long struggled with issues of sexual assault. The memories of the horrific rape of 2012 still lingers in the minds of Indians. The #MeToo movement has helped spark a renewed public conversation about sexual harassment and abuse. Yet it might never reach millions of sexually abused Indians who are fearful to use social media or have no access to it.

Many Nigerian victims suffer in silence, but in the wake of the global #MeToo movement, Nigerian women are beginning to share their stories.

In different parts of the world, the debate spurs up tension between both supporters and skeptics.There is a monumental amount of work to be done in confronting a climate of serial sexual predation where women are belittled, undermined and abused. But uncovering the colossal scale of the problem is revolutiory in its own right. The #MeToo movement is an example of a social movement that has transcended borders and tiolities, putting the much-needed attention to empowerment of women around the world.

Due to globalization and increasing connectivity, the women’s rights movement and women now are able to share their experiences globally. Survivors through this movement everywhere have the words, the platform, and a voice to tell their stories.They have realized that they are not alone and their experiences are being believed. For the first time, men are understanding what women have suffered for centuries. Whether women in Asia, Africa and the Arab world see significant change or whether it would be reserved for the privileged few, only time will tell.

Though the #MeToo movement is being approached differently around the world, it has exposed an epidemic of sexual assault and harassment across every corner of the world and unbolted a collective fury which can no longer be contained.

(The writer is a freelance jourlist based at New Jersey, US and may be reached at sanhitasaikia@yahoo.com)

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