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Women slowly breaking silence as #MeToo movement reaches region
SINGAPORE - It has been called the "Weinstein Effect".
Since the Hollywood scandal involving movie mogul Harvey Weinstein broke a month ago, and woman after woman - numbering about 100 now - stepped out to accuse him of sexual impropriety, the storm of allegations has not only engulfed various quarters in the West, but also swept through parts of Asia.
Last week, it was the Philippine arts and entertainment industry that got the bad rap, after several women accused two artists as well as members of popular bands of sexual misconduct.
Adrienne Onday, 19, a sociology student and activist at the University of the Philippines, started a Twitter thread to expose what she calls the "disgusting underbelly" of the Philippine music scene.
Onday said she had received sexually suggestive emojis by indie band Jensen And The Flips vocalist Jensen Gomez, 26. Young women responded to her post swiftly with similar allegations, although most wanted to remain anonymous.
One of them accused Flips guitarist Sammy Valenia, in his 20s, of trying to force himself on her inside a cab. "He kept trying to kiss me, even though I was pushing him away. But he was heavy, and I was so small," the woman wrote.
Valenia owned up to it in a Twitter post, saying he was "really sorry".
Members of two other bands, Sud and MilesExperience, were also accused of sending sexually explicit emojis, badgering minors for nude photos and making misogynistic remarks.
Similar cases have surfaced in the arts industry. A complaint has been filed against Paris-based Filipino sculptor Gaston Damag, 57, for allegedly groping a 22-year-old artist, while at least 11 women have accused digital artist Justin Remalante, 29, of sending them explicit text messages.
Women"s rights activists say while it is heartening that this growing movement in the West of victims calling out their harassers has reached this part of the world, the majority of sexual misconduct cases - including rape - still go unreported.
"Many women, rather than relive what happened to them when they report, just keep quiet. Many also think domestic violence is part of any relationship, so they don"t report it," said Joms Salvador, secretary-general of Manila-based women"s group Gabriela.
Victims who do report assault risk shaming and name-calling.
That was the case for freelance Japanese journalist Shiori Ito, 28, who went public in May this year, claiming she was raped by the former Washington bureau chief of Japanese news network, TBS News.
She alleged that Noriyuki Yamaguchi, 51, attacked her in a Tokyo hotel in 2015. He has close ties with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Ito was subjected to harassment and online abuse.
Much like Japan, India"s patriarchal and conservative norms have conditioned women into tolerating sexual harassment and even rape.
But emboldened by the #MeToo online campaign, which encouraged women to talk about their experiences, some Bollywood actresses have come forward with their stories.
Kavita Krishnan, of the All India Progressive Women"s Association, said: "It (#MeToo) has had some impact and any conversation around sexual harassment is good, but I think these conversations come and go. The question is, where does it go from here."
The Straits Times/ANN