In light of the recent death of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, multiple news outlets have been re-examining the #MeToo movement almost two years after its inception. In addition to the United States, countries around the world have begun demanding justice for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, some with more progress than others. The coverage of #MeToo across the globe reveals the challenges different cultures face when fighting for gender equality.
According to The Washington Post, the #MeToo movement has manifested in Russia through a surprising medium— comedy. Female comedians are taking over Russian stand-up to tell their stories, from dating to menopause, to mainstream audiences.
One comedian, Yulia Akhmedova, told The Washington Post that, “In Russia, women are always to blame and men are innocent.”
Now, women are demanding to be heard and taken as seriously as their male counterparts.
Russian women find a punchline in the age of #MeToo https://t.co/UuScsecbKt
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) August 11, 2019
Akhmedova is the first female comedian in Russia to have her own stand-up tour. When she is on stage, she talks about a myriad of topics, including her experiences with sexual assault and depression.
Russia has slowly backpedaled on women’s rights under President Vladimir Putin, who partially decriminalized domestic violence two years ago. Foreign Policy wrote an article in April entitled “Putin’s War on Women,” describing a country where 12,000 Russian women are killed by their abusers every year and “gender stereotypes are thriving” at the expense of women’s protections.
In an attempt to counteract the country’s current dangerous trajectory, comedians such as Akhmedova are catalyzing conversations about sexual assault and teaching fellow women about their rights in the uniquely safe spaces that only a comedy club full of women can provide.
India has had a long history of sexual assault and rape of women and minors including the rape and murder of a three-year-old girl in New Delhi in December and a five-year-old girl in Mumbai in February. India’s version of #MeToo blossomed last fall when women all across the country started telling their stories and calling out their abusers on social media, resulting in the resignation of a government minister and company executive, according to NPR.
Despite the momentum, there have been set backs. One woman was put on trial for defamation while another was given an unfair investigation by the man she accused of sexually harassing her— the chief justice of India’s Supreme Court.
Activists are worried India's #MeToo movement has stalled.
The accuser in one case has been put on trial for defamation. In another, someone accused the chief justice of India's Supreme Court — and the judge himself decided who would investigate. https://t.co/JoZSxJlLtD
— NPR (@NPR) July 30, 2019
According to NPR, there have also been a rise in men’s rights groups that work toward discrediting women’s allegations of abuse to “protect men from false convictions.” One group is led by a woman who has condemned the spread of the #MeToo movement on social media as “digital lynching.”
“[The #MeToo movement] showed us that a very broad range of sexual violence was taking place and that it was not just a few bad men out there,” said human rights activist and lawyer Vrinda Grover to NPR. “It showed everyone — very clearly — that this was almost like an invisible, daily occurrence which was completely pervasive.”
In England, actress Emma Watson has launched a sexual harassment hotline for people in need of legal aid funded by the Time’s Up UK Justice and Equality Fund. According to The Economic Times, the hotline is geared toward women who have experienced sexual harassment in the work place, a situation where seeking justice may cost access to an income.
Emma Watson launches free sexual harassment advice line https://t.co/iVbpcuJU3z pic.twitter.com/ErqvCFHpgQ
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) August 5, 2019
According to The Guardian, as of 2018, one in five women in England and Wales have experienced sexual assault. In other words, more than 510,000 women between 16 and 59 have been exposed to this type of abuse.
In June, the International Labor Organization adopted the Violence and Harassment Convention to try to eliminate unsafe working environments, “recognizing the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment.”
“Understanding what your rights are, how you can assert them, and the choices you have if you’ve experienced harassment, is such a vital part of creating safe workplaces for everyone,” said Watson to The Economic Times.