UN Human Rights Experts Hail #MeToo Movement

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Pierre Albouy
High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

A group of UN human rights experts* has lauded the powerful global movement that has shone the spotlight on sexual violence against women and gender inequality, and paid tribute to those who have dared to speak out and demand change.

“Through their courageous actions, these women have launched a global movement of women breaking the silence on sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence too often tolerated,” the independent experts said in a joint statement to mark International Women’s Day on March 8.

“It is a time to pay tribute to the countless women throughout history who have dared to stand up, to protest, and to say no to discrimination against women and girls and one of its worst manifestations: violence. Their courage and revolt have been the driving force behind every bit of progress made,” they said.

The experts hailed the movement, known by its social media hashtag MeToo, as a tipping point for women’s rights, and offered full support of the UN human rights mechanisms.

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“This is a transformative moment, a liberating and an empowering moment,” they said in the statement. “By speaking out on this scale, women are shaking centuries-old established discriminatory norms which normalise, accept and justify sexual violence against women and have constrained women in well-defined roles of inferiority and subordination.

“This is what is so significant about the moment. It is no longer just about individuals, it is about society. It is not about so-called morals and honour, it is about women’s rights as human rights. It is the system of the concentration of power and domination that is being challenged.”

The experts said the question being asked now is no longer whether to believe the woman, but rather what is wrong with our society. “How can sexual violence exercised against women exist on such a massive and endemic scale in a time of peace and in the most ordinary places of life: work places, schools, universities, on the streets, in public transportation, and at home?

With the advent of this movement, the experts said the shame and fear is starting to shift from the victims to the side of abusers and perpetrators of sexual violence, who have to face the consequences of their unacceptable behaviour in many cases and criminal acts in others.

(*) The UN experts: Alda Facio, Elizabeth Broderick, Ivana Radačić, Meskerem Geset Techane, Melissa Upreti, Chair-Rapporteur and members of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

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