It has been a year since the first reports of sexual abuse allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein surfaced. That sparked a cascade of similar revelations — and gave rise to the #MeToo movement in the United States.
But a year later, has #MeToo made as significant an impact in other corners of the world?
In Britain, attention quickly turned from Weinstein to the Palace of Westminster, or “Pestminster,” as the press dubbed it. Claims were made against British politicians, including Michael Fallon, who resigned as defense secretary, and Damian Green, who stepped down as the de facto deputy prime minister.
Public figures in London who drank too much and got “handsy” at parties were called out. Politicians vowed to take action, but campaigners have questioned the commitment.
“Have the two main political parties sufficiently changed their structures, rules and culture to stamp out sexual harassment? I am not so sure,” wrote Jane Merrick, a British journalist who went public with a charge of sexual harassment against Fallon.
Media brand names, celebrities and members of the power elite all came under scrutiny. Most notably, in January, the Financial Times sent an undercover reporter to the black-tie Presidents Club Charity Dinner, where all-male guests harassed the female “hostesses,” pulling the women onto their laps and demanding they drink more.
In South Korea, An Hee-jung, a regional governor and presidential contender, sensationally resigned after his secretary accused him of raping her on business trips. He was recently found not guilty of sexual assault, but prosecutors said they would appeal. After the verdict, An apologized and said he’d try to be “born again.”
In Japan, a journalist accused a top Finance Ministry bureaucrat of harassment. He resigned but denied the accusation. Equally telling was how the journalist was ignored by her own TV network.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, David Keyes, left his post last month after a New York City politician, Julia Salazar, publicly accused him of sexually assaulting her.
Keyes denied the allegations, but they spurred more than a dozen other women to come forward.
In Sweden, Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of a member of the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize for literature, was convicted of rape and sentenced to two years in prison.
In France, the country’s #MeToo campaign was known as #BalanceTonPorc, which loosely translates to “squeal on your pig.”
The French government was quick to take action. Marlène Schiappa, President Emmanuel Macron’s minister for gender equality, successfully introduced a provision to ban catcalling and verbal harassment in the streets. Last month, the law was used for the first time, when a panel of judges fined a man $347 for making lewd remarks to a woman on a bus and slapping her bottom.
Yet there has been a backlash, too, with some questioning whether the #MeToo movement has gone too far. The pushback came from surprising sources. In January, nearly 100 women — including writers, academics and actresses such as Catherine Deneuve — penned an open letter in the newspaper Le Monde, defending what they called “the right to annoy.”
In India, where stories of sexual abuse in the glamorous Bollywood industry have emerged, some allegations have been given renewed attention since #MeToo, including those of former Bollywood star Tanushree Dutta. Ten years ago, Dutta publicly claimed that her co-star, Nana Patekar, tried to force her to perform in a dance sequence where he would touch her inappropriately, and this year became the face of an anti-harassment campaign in Indian cinema.
Patekar denied the accusations, however, and few expect him to suffer serious consequences. In India’s multibillion-dollar movie industry, accusations of sexual abuse, harassment and even rape are often viewed as a concoction by attention-hungry actresses or, if true, as the price of fame.
In Russia, the reaction from Russians, including women, was largely one of victim-shaming. A slew of Russian actresses of all ages came out in support of Weinstein, and a group of women stripped naked in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, hoisting a sign saying “Harvey Weinstein Welcome to Russia.”
There have been some fledgling attempts at a Russian #MeToo. Earlier this year, at least five female journalists and a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman accused lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of sexual harassment. But the parliamentary ethics committee dismissed their claims, and Slutsky later boasted of how he had kept #MeToo out of the country.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the only high-profile accusations explicitly inspired by #MeToo have been in South Africa, a liberal outlier on the continent, and haven’t resulted in investigations.
That is partly because the movement for women’s rights faces different battles in Africa than in the West. Studies find that most sexual abuse against women on the continent is perpetrated by intimate partners rather than strangers or acquaintances. In some African cultures, genital mutilation, child marriage and polygamy are still practiced, and in conflict zones, trafficking and rape as a tool of war have been well-documented.
“Kenyan women are not waiting for #MeToo to bring them liberation, because we are responding to a totally different context,” said Nanjala Nyabola, a Kenyan political analyst. “Our struggles will be different.”