Beyond #MeToo – learning from anti-sexual harassment activisms globally

29th October 2020

A new IDS Bulletin examines the experiences of female-led activisms against sexual harassment in articles that cover 11 countries around the world, including Egypt, the Philippines and India. The editors, Mariz Tadros and Jenny Edwards, argue that a wider range of diverse collective actions need to be more widely recognised and learnt from to better understand how to counter sexual harassment around the world, and build collective action for accountability.

Three years since #MeToo went viral in October 2017, the continued focus on what is a western-centric movement risks overlooking the contributions, lessons learnt and potential collaborations from other anti-sexual harassment movements. It also highlights the added risk it can bring to feminist campaigns and women leading them in some countries, where they face backlash and accusations of acting out a ‘western agenda’.

The IDS Bulletin ‘Collective Action for Accountability of Sexual Harassment: Global Perspectives’ brings together diverse perspectives to identify a spectrum of experiences from well-defined and visible collective action against sexual harassment, such as Pakistan, India and Egypt, to contexts where voices are still silenced, including Burkino Faso and Benin.

One of the IDS Bulletin articles details the case of Filipino ‘Shefarers’. Filipino women started entering the male-dominated world of seafaring in the 1990s and have since faced a range of verbal and physical sexual harassment.  With technical difficulties of filing complaints and pursuing legal cases, especially when the incidents happen onboard international ships and are committed by foreign nationals, the ‘Shefarers’ have started to organise via a women’s committee of the male-dominated seafarers union to raise awareness and confront the problem.

Read the bulletin articles:

Professor Mariz Tadros, Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies and co-editor of ‘Collective Action for Accountability of Sexual Harassment: Global Perspectives’ said:

“There is certainly a place for international movements like #MeToo to energise and galvanise. We also need to try and make more space for a wider variety of voices from national and local movements globally to be heard.

“Our goal is to pluralise the voices, experiences and insights from around the world that offer opportunities for learning and potentially for forging new solidarities for women’s rights globally.”

The authors hope to raise a broader conversation about sexual harassment and abuse against women as a global issue that needs to be taken more seriously.

Ayesha Khan, researcher at the Collective for Social Science Research in Karachi and co-author of the article ‘Women Politicians Navigating the ‘Hostile Environment’ in Pakistan’, said:

“From our point of view, working and living in Pakistan, it’s really important that publications like this [IDS Bulletin] help to provide evidence and the evidence for us, so far, has come largely from the Western world with respect to sexual harassment.

“It provides a very important evidence base for countries in the global south, which we can start using to lobby for more awareness and more protective measures in our country.”

The IDS Bulletin ‘Collective Action for Accountability of Sexual Harassment: Global Perspectives’ was edited by Professor Mariz Tadros and Jenny Edwards and funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office as part of the Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) international research programme.

Photo credit: Women's March on Washington - 1/21/17 | Molly Adams | CC BY 2.0