The conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell for sex trafficking resonates beyond the borders of the United States and the United Kingdom, where the high-profile figures linked to the case reside.
Women’s rights activists in France, Iran and Turkey told ABC News that it raised hopes in many victims that they too could get justice. In particular, they hoped that the sentencing of the longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein would help raise the profile of survivors and their stories, as happened during Maxwell’s trial, and would be a step towards diminishing the shame of the victims in their countries.
Maxwell had tried to distance herself from Epstein and his alleged sex crimes with underage girls, but prosecutors argued she was key to facilitating the alleged crimes. She was convicted on five of the six abuse-related charges, but her family continue to maintain her innocence and have vowed to appeal.
Marylie Breuil, of NousToutes en France, a French feminist collective dedicated to combating violence against women, believes the case has been closely followed in her country, not only because Maxwell was born there, but also because a verdict like this “creates a certain pattern” to protect and uplift victims in the justice system.
The new “model,” she believes, will ease the burden on survivors both in the public mind and in the justice system. Instead of blaming, survivors should be listened to, a shift in focus that has already started from #MeToo.
“It gives a lot of hope to all the victims of very influential people who have a lot of money,” she added.
Breuil said that “all accomplices in sexual violence can now feel in danger and no longer remain in total impunity”.
However, the verdict resonates differently with Ghoncheh Ghavami, a women’s rights activist in Iran, a country with an Islamic Sharia-based legal system.
Ghavami is the founder of the Harasswatch website, which has become a forum for public dialogue on sexual violence and harassment against women and other marginalized groups.
While Ghavami feels “satisfied” after survivors of the Maxwell case got some relief after sentencing, she says bigger changes are needed in legal systems around the world.
“I view these decisions as minor victories. A number of upvotes does not make me forget the repressive and violent nature of the criminal justice system,” she said, calling for fundamental changes she believes are necessary to globally to overcome discrimination based on gender. discrimination.
For Ghavami and another Iranian women’s rights activist, the local circumstances and context are the major factor along with the benchmarks of the international women’s rights movement.
Iranian women had their #MeToo moment last year by taking over social media and sharing their personal stories of harassment, a few years after the global wave of the movement.
The movement was so strong that the conservative judiciary had to react and at least one suspected serial rapist was arrested by the police.
This is the case that Ghavami and so many others have their eyes set on.
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In neighboring Turkey, women’s rights activists have been vocal in recent years in their fight against harassment and violence against women.
“I feel relieved and would like to have hope for the future,” sociologist and women’s rights advocate Dr. Feyza Akınerdem told ABC News about how she personally feels about the verdict in conviction. She is a member of Havle Women’s Association, the first Muslim feminist women’s organization in Turkey.
“Court cases against female killers, predators and their allies have been one of the most important programs of the women’s movement in Turkey,” she said.
“I’m sure Maxwell’s case will empower survivors of sexual abuse around the world and encourage them to speak out,” she added.
For her, this verdict is a great example of how feminism can pave the way to encourage women and victims of harassment and silenced violence to speak out.
“The majority of victims and survivors of sexual abuse and gender-based violence are silenced… We shouldn’t wait for them to become strong enough to confront the predators,” Akınerdem said.
“Feminist intervention is really important to end the violence and abuse that is normalized because of socio-economic and gender privilege,” she said.
Additional report by Ibtissem Guenfoud.