Four years after actress Asia Argento’s shock speech at the Cannes Film Festival, which shed harsh light on sexual violence in the world of cinema, franceinfo takes stock of the consequences of the #MeToo movement in the United States, Sweden and in Egypt.
In the United States, freedom of speech but few convictions
The one who was the king of Hollywood a decade ago, Harvey Weinstein, was sentenced in 2020 to 23 years in prison by a New York court. However, he is not done with justice. He first appealed against this sentence. In addition, he was transferred last summer to Los Angeles where another trial is underway. He is once again accused of rape and sexual assault by five women. He pleads not guilty and faces up to 140 years in prison.
Since the beginning of the case, speech has clearly been released. Many Hollywood figures have fallen out of favor after accusations of sexual assault. We can name actors Kevin Spacey, James Franco, Bill Cosby, Chris North, but also television stars or even politicians, like the Governor of New York. It should be noted, however, that very few have in fact been convicted, the facts often being time-barred. Most stars also get away with private agreements, which prohibit victims from speaking out on the subject.
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There’s this high-profile ongoing lawsuit of actor Johnny Depp, a defamation lawsuit filed by Johnny Depp against his ex-wife, Amber Heard. In this very complex case of domestic violence, most of the public and the media took sides against the actress and did not hesitate to ridicule her. the New York Timeswithout commenting on the case itself, speaks all the same, in the face of the surge of hatred aroused by Amber Heard, of “the death” of the #MeToo movement.
In Sweden, a powerful movement but little evolution
Sweden is one of the countries where #MeToo had the most impact. Petitions to denounce harassment are not limited to the world of culture or the media. There were dozens of them, in all walks of life. Since then, the government has released funds to defend the cause of women and a law on consent has been passed.
However, the country is now witnessing a kind of backlash. The most emblematic case is that of Cissi Wallin, a high-profile journalist who in 2017 had denounced another star journalist on social networks, accusing him of having drugged and raped her. The man always denied and the case was closed for lack of evidence. He has since succeeded in having his accuser convicted of defamation.
Cissi Wallin then published a book, also attacked for defamation, but this time she was cleared. Nevertheless, this attempt to silence a woman is not an isolated case. An investigation by Swedish television, which followed a dozen cases, shows that all women accused of defamation in connection with #MeToo have been convicted.
It is obviously up to the courts to establish the guilt or innocence of a person implicated. However, there is a specificity in the Swedish legal system which means that these defamations are established without the case even being judged on the merits. The fact is that today the proportion of women who report having been victims of sexual harassment in Sweden has not decreased. Perhaps this is because the propensity of victims to report harassment has increased. It is also possible that the feeling of impunity has not diminished, and that the attacks continue as before, which would be less good news.
In Egypt, a movement abused by power
In Egypt, 99% of women said they had already experienced harassment, according to the UN. Unlike other countries, the #MeToo movement only emerged in the summer of 2020 in the country. After the accusations of harassment of an American university student, tens of thousands of testimonies from women have appeared on social networks, recounting their daily lives and the abuse they are victims of.
However, these attempts to free speech were quickly overtaken by the conservative reality of Egypt. A few weeks after these first testimonies, the video of a gang rape committed by young men from Egyptian high society appeared on social networks. While only two of the five perpetrators were arrested, it was above all friends of the victim who were the object of a defamation campaign on the part of personalities close to power. Both men and women have all undergone virginity tests and been accused of undermining Egyptian family values.
Since this fiasco, social networks have been silent in view of the impunity reigning for sexual predators in Egypt. At the time of this wave of freedom of speech, President Sissi himself gave his support to the victims. Anxious to preserve the little credibility he has in the defense of human and women’s rights, he had a law validated last summer criminalizing harassment by five years in prison.
A measure however little applied, as the voice of women is little listened to in Egypt. Especially since some defenders of women’s rights like Mozn Hassan or Amal Fathy have been prosecuted and sentenced by Egyptian justice for having criticized the lack of involvement of the authorities in this defense of women’s rights.