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190 British actresses demand end to sexual harassment ahead of Baftas

The world is 'ripe for change', the letter states. Credit: PA

Almost 200 of Britain's leading actresses are demanding the eradication of sexual harassment from all industries, ahead of Sunday night's Baftas. Double Oscar-winner Emma Thompson, Harry Potter star Emma Watson, and new Dr Who, Jodie Whittaker have all signed an open letter calling for an end to harassment, abuse, and impunity in a world "ripe for change".

The 190 stars of film, TV and stage have joined forces with more than 160 activists, academics and service providers, to launch a new fund aiming to resource a network of support and advocacy organisation projects across the UK.

Watson has donated £1 million to the fund, while Tom Hiddleston and Keira Knightley each donated £10,000.

Meanwhile Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Whittaker and Noomi Rapace each donated £1,000 and Thompson donated £500.

The letter (read the letter in full below) has been published ahead of the Baftas on Sunday night, where activists will join stars on the red carpet, while attendees will wear black in solidarity with Time's Up - the movement launched following the sexual harassment scandal which engulfed Hollywood after an avalanche of allegations were made against film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein Credit: PA

Activists and guests invited to the awards include Laura Bates who founded the award-winning Everyday Sexism project, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, co-founder of UK Black Pride, and Eileen Pullen and Gwen Davis, two of the "Dagenham Girls" who walked out of a Ford Motor Company plant after learning they were being paid less than their male counterparts in 1968.

Published in The Observer, the open letter - also signed by stars including Naomie Harris, Gemma Arterton, Letitia Wright and Olivia Coleman - states: "This movement is bigger than just a change in our industry alone.

"This movement is intersectional, with conversations across race, class, community, ability and work environment, to talk about the imbalance of power."

The letter highlights the gender pay gap, the insecurities of the gig economy and freelance work as well as research which found more than half of women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment at work.

Double-Oscar winner Emma Thompson is among the signatories. Credit: PA

The letter reads: "In the very near past, we lived in a world where sexual harassment was an uncomfortable joke; an unavoidable awkward part of being a girl or a woman.

"It was certainly not to be discussed, let alone addressed. In 2018, we seem to have woken up in a world ripe for change. If we truly embrace this moment, a line in the sand will turn to stone."

It says high-profile stars "need to use our power as communicators and connectors to shift the way society sees and treats us".

"We need to examine the kind of womanhood our industry promotes and sells to the world."

The letter calls for an end to harassment, abuse, and impunity. Credit: PA

They call for "collective power" in bringing the Time's Up movement to workers across all industries "in the limelight or the shadows" to galvanise others and invite supporters to donate to their new fund.

Managed by Rosa, the UK Justice And Equality Fund aims to make workplaces safe for all and ensure anyone subjected to harassment and abuse is able to access support.

They say the Baftas is a time to "celebrate this tremendous moment of solidarity and unity across borders by coming together and making this movement international".

A second letter signed by activists, academics and service providers welcomes the involvement of the stars.

It reads: "For each woman in the entertainment industry who has spoken out, there are thousands of women whose stories go unheard...These are not isolated incidents.

"This is about power and inequality; and it is systemic."

Bafta attendees will wear black in solidarity with the Time's Up movement. Credit: PA

Read the letter in full:

Dear Sisters,

A little over a month ago TIME'S UP was launched. You might have read a public letter in the New York Times. You may have noticed women wearing black on the red carpet. You might have seen women coming forward to share their stories of harassment.

Maybe you identified with some of the stories these women shared. Maybe you found yourself nodding as you recalled similar moments in your own life.

All over the world, women have been organising, resisting and speaking out - from Ni Nunca Mas in Latin America and the #lifeinleggings movement in the Caribbean, to the Balance Ton Porc movement in France and the #EverydaySexism hashtag here in the UK. You might have seen #metoo. You may have said, "Me too".

In autumn of last year, when stories came out in the press about sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse in the entertainment industry, 700,000 female farm workers wrote to us to say they stood with us in solidarity.

Their letter explained that they knew what we were going through, that they stood shoulder to shoulder with us in our pain and in our belief that a better world was possible.

This solidarity between women - activists and survivors - across all industries is what inspired TIME'S UP and what continues to galvanise us. This movement is bigger than just a change in our industry alone.

This movement is intersectional, with conversations across race, class, community, ability and work environment, to talk about the imbalance of power.

Here in the UK, this movement is at a critical juncture. The gender pay gap for women in their 20s is now five times greater than it was six years ago.

Research in the UK has found that more than half of all women said they have experienced sexual harassment at work.

A growing reliance on freelance workforces creates power relationships which are conducive to harassment and abuse. Those engaged in insecure contract work are especially vulnerable to exploitation.

While we know women are disproportionately affected by this abuse, we also know there are men in our industry and others that have been subjected to harassment and abuse as part of this system of patriarchal power. And they too have been silenced.

So, what is our industry's role in promoting a vision of an equal society? We believe it is huge. We believe we need to use our power as communicators and connectors to shift the way society sees and treats us.

We need to examine the kind of womanhood our industry promotes and sells to the world.

There is no question that TIME'S UP should be and will be a global movement. A movement that is defined and led by those affected by the problem, not by those in power.

As we approach the BAFTAs, our industry's time for celebration and acknowledgment, we hope we can celebrate this tremendous moment of solidarity and unity across borders by coming together and making this movement international.

Perhaps TIME'S UP seems a million miles away to you - started by a group of women with privilege. The truth is, we are all workers, and whether we're in the limelight or in the shadows, our voices matter. With our collective power, we can galvanise others.

In the very near past, we lived in a world where sexual harassment was an uncomfortable joke; an unavoidable, awkward part of being a girl or a woman. It was certainly not to be discussed, let alone addressed.

In 2018, we seem to have woken up in a world ripe for change. If we truly embrace this moment, a line in the sand will turn to stone.

This moment has already raised a staggering $21 million for an American TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund. But women all over the world need support and funding in order to be able to fight injustice. The revolution we want and need cannot happen without this resourcing.

So, we invite you to join us in donating to the new UK Justice and Equality Fund, to spread the word to others, and be a catalyst for change. Everyone can make a difference by using your platform, your voice and your power as a changemaker.

Finally, we are talking to each other, talking to our employers, our unions, our male allies and challenging our perpetrators and their enablers. Where there was isolation and silence in the film industry there is now connection and voice. Where there was internalisation and self-blame, there is now self-analysis and interrogation.

We are connecting and partnering with our fellow workers, women and men, in a truly transformational way. Such unity has been inspirational for all of us. We want you to be part of this.

If you have said "time's up", if the stories you have read in the papers have resonated and distressed you - join us in shifting the dial. Let's make 2018 the year that time was up on sexual harassment and abuse. This is your moment too.

– Letter in full