Myths, Misogyny and Misconduct

We have been energised by the many out of office messages we have been receiving as people begin travelling again amidst reduced pandemic restrictions. The greater ease with which we can connect with the rest of the world has similarly inspired us to closely monitor global and local developments for women and girls, and their implications for all of us.

Here are three areas to note:

Ongoing violence against women and girls: Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a spate of violence towards women and girls across the globe: the bombing of a girls’ school in Afghanistan (and violence towards the women protesting this incident), the death of a young woman in Iran over inappropriate clothing and the death of a woman in South Korea who was killed by a stalker after her failed efforts to have a pre-trial detention warrant. While there are myriad complex factors, one message is clear: from institutions to legal frameworks, there needs to be urgent reform in how we value and protect the lives of half of our population. Hong Kong is not exempt from this reform – more than 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual violence in this city. This is why TWF ran our #MakePeopleCount campaign to raise awareness on sexual violence and provide resources for education and support. We also urge the Government to draft the 70 critical recommendations on sexual violence from the Hong Kong Law Reform Commission into law as a priority.

Systemic Abuse within Women’s Football: On Monday, a report was released detailing abuse that has been rife within the U.S. national women’s football league for years, including verbal and emotional abuse as well as sexual misconduct by several top tier coaches. Echoing the US gymnastics abuse scandal in 2018, many league officials, team owners, and key stakeholders including its highest body of authority were aware of the abuse allegations and chose not to take further action. The report calls for a number of immediate reforms as well as a call for an investigation into girls youth football leagues where abuse may also exist. Sports are often touted as a way in which women can renegotiate gender roles and challenge stereotypes, but this isn’t possible if sports leagues are not a space where women and girls are safe from harm and abuse. We hope this report will spark action at all levels of women’s football in the US and elsewhere, and globally inspire other professional and amateur sports leagues to ensure that they are safeguarding the well-being of their players.

Myths and taboos around women’s reproductive health: Earlier this week, the University of Hong Kong released findings from a survey on miscarriage that showed over 90% of respondents erroneously believed long-term stress could cause miscarriage and over half of respondents mistakenly attributed it to strenuous physical exercise, among other myths. Concerningly, this misinformation around miscarriage can lead to couples being blamed by their community for the pregnancy loss at a time when they most need support. This research further fuels the need to tackle the stigma, knowledge gap and taboo that surround all of women’s reproductive health from menstruation through to menopause. At TWF, we’re keen to normalise conversations around these topics in the workplace and in the broader community, and have advocated for a range of actions in our most recent submission to the Policy Address Public Consultation. We encourage individuals to sensitively integrate topics on women’s health in day-to-day conversations and be receptive and supportive around the needs people may have that are going through these challenges.

It is clear there is much work to do to address the many challenges facing women and girls both here and elsewhere – from education and awareness raising to legal and structural reforms.

Let’s get to it.

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The Women's Foundation