This post is part of a new monthly series of discussions about sexual harassment across global contexts. Please send us your responses as we begin building a platform for this crucial conversation.
Compiled by Dr. Majid Sadigh, Trefz Family Endowed Chair in Global Health at WCHN and Director of Global Health at UVMLCOM, and edited by Mitra Sadigh, Editor of Global Health Diaries.
Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence are ubiquitous. As such, participants of global health programs often experience and report such abuses while undergoing international electives. Proper guidance and support must be provided so that these individuals can effectively recover and that the source of abuse be rectified. The framework for understanding sexual harassment and abuse has fundamentally changed with the widespread #MeToo movement that has shaken the historic tolerance of sexual harassment, leading to both discourse and action of global impact. In this vein, it is the responsibility of the global health community to educate its members, from trainees to faculty and researchers, about methods of advocating for one’s own rights and the rights of others in the face of sexual harassment and abuse in the era of the #MeToo movement.
A global health participant in Uganda expresses that she is uncomfortable walking to and from the hospital in Kampala, even when in a group, because men frequently approach her with comments about her looks and statements such as “I have always wanted a Mzungu (white) wife… marry me.” She tries to politely decline their offers and continue on her way, but she struggles to cope with the unwanted advances that make her feel conspicuous and unsafe, and feels targeted despite dressing and behaving according to local customs.