UN Women chief pushes wider #MeToo cam­paign

Manila Times - - World -

ISLAMABAD: The global #MeToo cam­paign has taken the bat­tle for women’s rights to “where we have never been be­fore,” the head of the United Na­tions’ agency for gen­der equal­ity told AFP dur­ing her first of­fi­cial visit to Pak­istan re­cently.

“The chal­lenge for you and me now is to keep it go­ing,” Dr. Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of UN Women, said, call­ing the move­ment a “stage in the on­go­ing jour­ney to fight for gen­der equal­ity.”

Mlambo-Ngcuka was vis­it­ing Pak­istan, where so­ci­ety re­mains deeply pa­tri­ar­chal with shock­ingly high rates of vi­o­lence and abuse by men tar­get­ing women, as part of her trav­els to mark the UN’s 16 Days of Ac­tivism against Gen­der-Based Vi­o­lence, which ends on De­cem­ber 10.

The #MeToo move­ment be­gan in the United States more than a year ago in re­sponse to ac­cu­sa­tions of sex­ual abuse and ha­rass­ment by pow­er­ful men in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try and other sec­tors.

It soon be­came a global move­ment as women shared their sto­ries of ha­rass­ment or gen­der-based dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“It’s mov­ing from the time when the word ‘con­sent’ did not even ex­ist as a le­gal trend, when do­mes­tic vi­o­lence was not even a crime, when sex­ual ha­rass­ment did not even have a face,” Mlambo- Ngcuka said.

“The strug­gles of women who have fought for decades and decades have made this pos­si­ble and Me Too has been able to take this to the high­est stage.”

But, she warned, “we are not there yet, the pen­du­lum might still swing back­ward, so that’s why we have to work even harder.”

The UN is pro­mot­ing the hash­tag #HearMeToo as a part of that push, to give voice to women far away from Hol­ly­wood or po­si­tions of power, in ru­ral ar­eas in­clud­ing in Pak­istan, she said.

Though Pak­istan has seen some high-pro­file #MeToo cases, the cam­paign has not had the same im­pact as in other coun­tries, and women con­tinue to strug­gle for their rights.

Child mar­riages, do­mes­tic abuse and so- called “honor” killings — in which men kill women, usu­ally their rel­a­tives, for slight­ing a pa­tri­ar­chal, out­dated so­cial code — re­main ram­pant.

Prime Minister Im­ran Khan, a for­mer cricket star and in­ter­na­tional lothario, caused con­tro­versy dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign this sum­mer for say­ing that fem­i­nism has de­graded moth­er­hood.

How­ever Mlambo-Ngcuka said she wanted to fo­cus on what Khan and his ad­min­is­tra­tion are do­ing: seek­ing to take on child mar­riage, “honor” mur­ders and giv­ing women ac­cess to fam­ily plan­ning.

“I want to en­cour­age the gov­ern­ment un­der the lead­er­ship of this prime minister to do more of the things that they have been talk­ing about,” she said.

“We are work­ing with them, hand­in­hand.”

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