Event Report: Stand Against Sexual Harassment and Violence
Today, November 25, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Commemorating this significant day, WE Int. and the Japan National Committee for UN Women jointly held a discussion session on sexual harassment and violence last Wednesday. The event was a time of an intercultural, intersectional, and intergenerational conversation, where each of the participants offered their opinions and viewpoints based on their distinct experiences. However, they all shared the same passion for eliminating sexual violence, as well as the solidarity to stand with the victims.
Read below the voices of the participants, Hisashi Kato and Darina Obukhova.
Orange it. The discussion on sexual violence and harassment
More than 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 4 men have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. It occurs in all the states across the globe with a varying degree dependent on economic state, political environment, access to justice and other parameters. Sexual violence happens in the United States where, according to the largest anti-sexual violence organization RAINN, every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted whereas only 5 out of every 1000 perpetrators ends up in prison. Sexual violence happens in Russia where there is no separate law on domestic violence and government thinks that adopting such law would be interference in “family life” and a slap in the face of traditional values system. It happens in Japan where victims of rape need to re-enact it with a life-size doll after reporting case to the police. Sexual also happens in Sweden with an alarmingly high rate of rape - according to the country’s National Council on Crime Prevention, it increased by 10% in 2017 totaling 7230 cases.
Aforementioned statistics along with many other examples out there shows the urgent need in talking more about violence, taking measures against it and shifting public attitudes toward it. That is the reason why WE Int., organized discussion on sexual violence and harassment with UN Women National Committee Japan where all members of both organizations and non-members interested in the topic were able to take part in. We discussed the definition of sexual violence, the underunderstood concept of consent, victimization, difference in some statistics on sexual assault and violence in the United States and Japan. We also focused on measures that can be taken to minimize sexual violence, improve public understanding of the matter and help victims. Publishing a very detailed guidebook on consent, informing people about the availability of hotlines and help stations for victims and, most importantly, starting change with being the person in your community that people can share with were among the discussed measures. In the end we took a group picture wearing orange, a color of UN Women calling for a violence-free future, and showing a stop sign with our hands. You can also start “oranging” future today - for example, using more neutral language or raising awareness about sexual violence and harassment inside you and in the outside world.
Written by event participant and WE Int. member, Darina Obukhova
Making the conversations on sexual violence more inclusive
One of the most fascinating things about this event was that every participant truly welcomed the involvement of men in the forum which was focused on sexual harassment /rape against women. I must admit that I had some reservations before the event, that I might be the target of all the accusations against men, as if I represented the entire male gender. However, I felt at the event that my opinions as a man were fully respected, and no one made a sweeping generalization that all men can be subsumed under the single and homogenous category of the male gender.
I believe that, in order to have constructive debates on gender issues, it is critical not to exclude certain groups. That being said, it was unfortunate that no one brought up the topic of sexual minorities, and especially the issues related to transgender women, when discussing both sexual harassment and assaults. Transgender women are especially vulnerable to harassment/assaults in many cultures, and Japan is no exception. Therefore, in these events going forwards, such issues must be discussed, and I would love to deepen my thoughts on what I can do to help.
Written by event participant, Hisashi Kato