Sexual harassment has been a major issue in the news as of late in America. Time magazine has even named the #MeToo movement as its ‘Person of the Year’ for 2017. But is sexual harassment as prevalent elsewhere in the world? Sadly, yes. Sexual harassment is a truly global phenomenon. There is often a close connection between the prevalence of sexual harassment and violent sexual crimes like rape. Beyond Hollywood, sexual harassment happens in the workplace and in public spaces around the world.
Overall, sexual harassment is widespread in Africa. South Africa has some of the highest rape statistics in the world. Recent stats show that there are over 142 sexual offences in South Africa every single day. It’s not surprising to learn that sexual harassment is an everyday occurrence for many South Africans. Several South African women added their voices to the #MeToo campaign that went viral in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandel.
In Kenya, women frequently experience sexual harassment and assault on public transportation. A recent survey of Kenyan women showed that more than half of respondents had experienced some kind of sexual harassment or assault while using public transport. As many of these women vitally rely on public transport, including young girls going to school, this is deeply troubling. That drunk male transport workers are often the perpetrators of the abuse makes it even worse. Statistics on sexual harassment in Egypt are astounding. Almost 100% of Egyptian women experience sexual harassment, according to a report from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. One form of sexual harassment common around the world is online harassment. This includes so-called sextortion and revenge porn.
One thing that can help reduce the prevalence of sexual harassment are workplace policies and legislation. While this will not stop the problem altogether, it can reduce the frequency and severity when there are consequences. There is still no legislation whatsoever to protect victims of sexual harassment in Zambia or Malawi. South Africa is on the right track with the South African Protection from Harassment Act.
Hopefully, the tide is turning. As there is more widespread support for victims and actual consequences for perpetrators, more victims are feeling emboldened to come forward. The #MeToo movement in America is taking off around the world and hopefully, the social support will lead to some positive systemic changes worldwide.