1. How did it start?
The #MeToo movement focuses on the experiences of sexual violence survivors with an effort to effect social change. It was originally founded in the USA in 2006 by Tarana Burke who started using the phrase ‘Me Too’ in 2006 to raise awareness of women who had been abused. Eleven years later, it found global recognition after a viral tweet by actress Alyssa Milano, one of the women who accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. This then prompted several women in Hollywood to open up about their own experiences. This chain of events shows that if one person speaks up about their personal tragic experience, it might then prompt others, who might have been scared to speak up initially, to do the same as they realise that they are not alone. The main aim of the movement is to show the world how common sexual harassment is, to raise awareness of the issue and most importantly, to tell survivors that they are not alone and are supported.
2. Why is it important?
Why is this movement important, one may ask? We may not realise the impact of a movement or the impact of a tragedy unless we feel personally involved in it. But some statistics may help us realise that this problem is all around us. (Statistics from metoomvmt.org)
1 in 10 elderly persons suffer abuse, including sexual abuse, within a one-year period
1 in 10 youth detained in juvenile facilities experience sexual assault or sexual abuse while in custody
1 in 4 women have experienced rape or attempted rape during their lifetimes according to several national US surveys
1 in 4 women returning from the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan reported that they were sexually assaulted while they were deployed
12% of transgender youth report being sexually assaulted in K-12 settings by peers or educational staff
22% of transgender respondents who have interacted with police reported harassment by police, with much higher rates reported by people of color. 46% of respondents reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
Being an LGBTQ person of color increases the risk factor for sexual violence. For example, 65% of transgender American Indians have been victims of sexual assault.
Sexual assault seems to be all around us. Whether it is the elderly, the youth, those in the military, or in school, and even worse, by those who are meant to protect us.
3. Has it made an impact?
Dozens of women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, including rape, against Weinstein since October 2017. In February 2020, Weinstein was found guilty of committing a first-degree criminal sexual act against production assistant Miriam Haley in 2006 and of the third-degree rape of aspiring actress Jessica Mann in 2013. He was sentenced to 23 years of imprisonment. Following this, states began to ban nondisclosure agreement which was a systemic problem: Zelda Perkins, Weinstein’s former assistant, signed an agreement as part of a settlement that prevented her from telling even family members that Weinstein had exposed himself to her repeatedly. Another impact of the #MeToo movement is the expansion of sexual harassment law, for example in New York, to cover independent contractors, such as makeup artists or Uber drivers, as the laws only applied to employees initially.
4. Worldwide Impact
The Weinstein case definitely shows a success. So many people go through sexual assault every single day, and these are the people we need to talk about too, not just the famous Hollywood stars. The #MeToo movement picks up speed all around the world, here are a few examples:
In Egypt, lawmakers have been pushing for a new law to protect the identity of women coming forward to report sexual abuse and assault after the #MeToo movement reached Egypt. An Egyptian parliamentary committee has approved a draft law that would give survivors of sexual assault and harassment the automatic right to anonymity. This is important because it will give greater protection for women to report such cases.
In China, the #MeToo movement has never been able to manifest in mass street protest but individual victims have had the courage to take their cases to court. In December 2018, the Supreme Court added sexual harassment to the list of ‘causes of action’ making it easier for victims to seek redress.
In Japan, the #MeToo movement helped people realise that sexual harassment and violence are problems that affect their everyday life. It inspired the #KuToo movement (initiated by Yumi Ishikawa), which complained about the culture of dress codes that forced many women to wear high heels. According to Yumi, she used shoes as a lens to help Japanese people understand how close to home sexual discrimination is. This reached the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who said that women should not be forced to wear high heels.
“If you want me to kiss you, switch off this light, lock the door, and I’ll kiss you for a minute,” a lecturer and pastor told a reporter posing undercover as an underage student at the University of Lagos in Nigeria. The encounter was caught on hidden camera during a BBC “Africa Eye” investigation that exposed sexual harassment in Nigerian and Ghanaian universities. In Nigeria, #MeToo has inspired ‘Sex4Grades’ which led to an anti-sexual harassment bill focusing on tertiary education.
In Mexico, there has been an increase in accusations and testimonies, and people now know that speaking up is a real option because they are not alone and are supported. There is a demand to end violence against women and to have equal treatment in the workplace. It led to new initiatives such as #MujeresJuntasMarabunta or #YaEsHora.
As a conclusion, the #MeToo movement is still a work in progress. It has achieved a lot but there is still a lot that is yet to cover all around the world. This is an uphill battle, but as famous African proverb says, ‘if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’.
3rd Year, Law (LLB)