We, the People’s Health Movement (PHM), are deeply distressed and concerned about the complaints of sexual harassment from a few women colleagues attending the fourth People’s Health Assembly in Savar, Bangladesh. The pervasiveness of sexual harassment indicates the distance that remains to be traversed towards achieving equality, justice, and the creation of safe convening, working, and living environments. As the PHM, our goal of Health for All encompasses all of these and we stand united in condemning all sexual harassment and violence.
There is often an assumption that spaces populated by progressive movements, networks and organisations are free of incidents of sexual harassment but clearly that is not the case. We also perceive sexual harassment as a serious flaw in our efforts to organise the Assembly in an environment that respects women and enables participants, who experience sexual harassment to report it without fear or judgement. Reflecting on the Assembly which was held in the midst of local political crisis (shifting the Assembly venue overnight, and other VISA related crises etc.,), we admit that mechanisms to report and respond to incidents of sexual harassment were not in place.
We salute the courage of those, who have faced sexual harassment have called out the perpetrators of harassment at the Assembly; we extend our wholehearted support to them and express our deep sense of shock at the impunity these men have availed of. We stand by all those who have experienced sexual harassment and violence in their lives and implore all organisations, networks, individuals who are part of the PHM and other progressive movements to strongly denounce such acts and behaviour. We unequivocally share their concerns and support their complaints and follow up action towards justice.
The deep nexus between power, inequalities and male hegemony in normalising and condoning sexual harassment and sexual violence must be confronted and eliminated. We extend our full, unconditional support and solidarity with all survivors and firmly commit to undertake urgent measures within PHM (at country, regional and global levels) to end sexual harassment, violence and impunity.