Do Middle Eastern Women Have A #MeToo Movement?

Women across the United States have begun to speak out about the issue of rampant sexual assault and harassment by their male counterparts, and the #MeToo movement shows no signs of slowing down. Most notably, comedian Bill Cosby was sentenced to years in prison, while actor Kevin Spacey has finally been charged with just one of his dozens of alleged assaults. No one can argue that it’s far past time for such a movement, but do women outside of the United States have the same options?

The movement–or similar movements–do exist outside of the United States, but they don’t always have the same impact. Part of the reason is rooted in Middle Eastern culture. In that part of the world, women are supposed to be submissive, and accusations of sexual assault aren’t taken seriously. Female accusers often face contempt, and sometimes find themselves in even more danger.

Once upon a time, it wasn’t unheard of for a woman to be stoned to death for being raped outside of her marriage vows–as if it was her fault. It still isn’t unheard of for family members to turn against a young woman who is even thought to have strayed from the path that men think she ought to tread.

Arab celebrities have also managed to escape the rule of law, even when accused shortly after a crime has been committed. This is especially true of singers or actors who are on the road, and have every opportunity to leave the country by skipping bail or provide a mouth-watering settlement offer to poor women who are more likely to accept.

Women who reside in Iran continue to battle against the notion that a woman must be covered by a hijab. Women in Israel are jumping onboard the #MeToo bandwagon, and rather successfully at that.

Life is a little rougher in Pakistan, where an average of 1000 girls of Hindu or Christian faith are kidnapped. These girls are then converted to Islam and married to Muslim men by force. There are still far too many honor killings. On top of that, it isn’t out of the ordinary for prepubescent girls as young as six to marry men who could be their grandfathers. It happens all the time so families can settle feuds.

Protests are in the works because of this barbaric behavior, and the brutally violent crimes against women are finally finding their place in the international spotlight. But is that enough to effectuate real change?