Puja Kapai, ‘#MeToo in Asia: Breaking down barriers’

WSRC Convenor Puja Kapai’s article ‘#MeToo In Asia: Breaking down barriers’ appears in the April 2019 issue of the Asian Jurist. The article charts the journey of #MeToo in Asia, surveying a wide range of countries including China, Japan, Korea, India and Hong Kong. The first step towards addressing the challenge of sexual harassment in Asia is to recognise the role of cultural, social, legal and political contexts which produce and perpetuate gender imbalance and other forms of patriarchy. These are the enabling structures which work together to entrench structural and substantive inequalities and provide fertile conditions for the perpetration and continuation of sexual harassment on grounds of gender. A context-specific approach to gender justice is indispensable – Asia, like other parts of the world, must forge its own approach to tackling these issues.

‘[J]ust as global hsitory does not begin with the story of colonialism, tracking the development and spread of the #MeToo movement as a trend moving from the West to the East should give us pause to reconsider.

The trajectory of #MeToo in Asia reveals the importance of understanding developments within their distinct contexts and local settings in order to map the unique journey taken by different communities to forge pathways to gender justice against sexual violence.

…In China, Korea, Japan and India, the movement is clearly building on decades of feminist organisation and activism to challenge the widespread perpetration and tolerance of sexual violence as a privilege of the elite, powerful and well-connected.

…It is this system that #MeToo threatens to destabilise. It is now possible to use anonymous reporting to seek out other victims to build a case against a serial sexual predator in a manner that was not conceivable before. This helps address multiple facets of the gender justice gaps, including victim-blaming and shaming, undermining the testimony of victims on grounds of credibility, and the silencing of victims for reasons of honour. However, #MeToo has centred the perpetrator as the subject of dishonour and distrust. This has fomented the unravelling of the tight networks connecting powerful men together and, as these ties begin to fray, such connections are deemed politically, socially, and professionally corrosive.

As the revival of gender justice forges forth, there is much work to be done. Homegrown approaches and cultural shifts are essential for lasting and meaningful change. These serve as the seeds and soil to ensure their proper conditioning to enable the protection of all women against GBV and the success of any legal claims brought against abusers. It is time to work within our communities to turn bystanders and enablers into allies who act against the perpetrators of such abuse, and to create a tipping point for a new normal – one which is free from gender-based violence.’

Read the full article here.