International #MeToo Roundup

For those of us living in the United States, losing track of what is happening for women’s rights in other parts of the world is easy. Having a global perspective can be helpful for understanding challenges that women face at home. Here are some updates:


  • Maria Abi-Habib and Vindu Goel report that, after a slow start, the #MeToo movement exploded in India during October 2018 as accusations of sexual harassment forced resignations, apologies, and shunning at the highest levels of government and in journalism, entertainment, the arts, advertising, and academia. The authors note that India has historically and recently been plagued by sexual violence against women. It remains to be seen whether this new momentum will improve protections for women or make workplaces safer—but there is hope that the #MeToo movement will sustain this progress and bring about lasting change.
  • Vindu Goel, Ayesha Venkataraman, and Kai Schultz explain that while public allegations against Harvey Weinstein one year ago unleashed a powerful #MeToo movement in the United States, an Indian equivalent did not get started until recently. The authors explain that the combination of the accusations of a prominent Bollywood actress, Tanushree Dutta; the complaints of a comedian, Mahima Kukreja; and the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford in the United States combined to inspire dozens of women in journalism to come forward about harassment by editors, publishers, and reporters. These women have now unleashed an outpouring of #MeToo stories and accusations in other industries in India.


  • Javier C. Hernández and Iris Zhao write that even in an environment where strong government censorship and a patriarchal culture stifle dissent by women, the international #MeToo movement has encouraged women in China to speak out. The first public accusations appeared earlier this year on university campuses as students circulated open letters about the sexual misconduct of professors. More recently, dozens of women have posted open letters on social media accusing prominent Chinese journalists, intellectuals, and charity leaders of sexual assault and harassment. The wave of allegations was eventually shut down by government censors who fear the power of the #MeToo movement, but, as one media scholar at the University of Hong Kong notes, “Censorship can only stop public discussion for awhile. When something big happens again, it will come back.”
  • In another significant #MeToo moment in China, Ian Johnson writes that the Venerable Xuecheng, the abbot of one of the most prominent Buddhist monasteries in China, was stripped of his titles and influence after Buddhist nuns accused him of sexual misconduct. Johnson notes that the abbot’s fall is a rare case of a politically connected figure being felled in “China’s small but tenacious #MeToo movement.”


The country of Nepal has a long way to go to create a culture in which sexual harassment is taken seriously. Bhadra Sharma and Kai Schultz report that sexual assault is up 60 percent over the past five years. Public anger is growing, but the government’s only response has been to ban pornography, a move described as “a diversionary tactic to hide the government’s incompetence in prosecuting rapists.” Police in Nepal have a long history of protecting rapists by destroying DNA evidence, refusing to arrest accused rapists, and treating victims with suspicion and hostility. The #MeToo movement in other countries has encouraged women in Nepal to report assaults. #MeToo is putting pressure on governments and organizations everywhere to end sexual harassment and assault to create safer, more respectful cultures. Let’s keep telling our stories.     Photo courtesy of Yann Forget (CC BY-SA 3.0)]]>

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