Emma Watson speaks up for gender equality

LONDON - British actress Emma Watson said that threats she received after she made a speech on women's rights at the United Nations last September made her even more determined to push for gender equality.

The former Harry Potter star said she was "raging" after she received the threats, but added: "If they were trying to put me off it, they did the opposite."

She told a live Facebook question- and-answer session at its London headquarters on Sunday: "There was a website set up that was threatening to release naked images of me, with like a countdown and whatever else."

The discussion was to help raise awareness for International Women's Day.

"I knew it was a hoax, I knew the pictures didn't exist, but I think a lot of people that were close to me knew gender equality was an issue but didn't think it was that urgent," People magazine quoted her as saying.

"You know, 'We live in Great Britain - this is a thing of the past. We're fine. We're good. We have got far enough'," added the British star and goodwill ambassador for UN Women.

"When they saw that the minute I stepped up and talked about women's rights I was immediately threatened - I mean within less than 12 hours I was receiving threats - I think they were really shocked and one of my brothers, in particular, was very upset."

People said she was referring to the EmmaYoureNext.com website, which turned out to be a prank set up by Rantic, a "social marketing and PR" agency, according to its website.

On Sunday, she urged more men and boys to take a stand for women's rights and to be proud to be feminists in a bid to add momentum to a global campaign to unite men and women for gender equality, Reuters reported.

She was using International Women's Day to add impetus to the HeForShe campaign that was launched in September last year and encourages men and boys to join the fight for equal rights.

So far, about 240,000 men have pledged their commitment online, according to the HeForShe website, including United States President Barack Obama and actor Matt Damon, but there is a target to mobilise one billion men and boys by July this year.

"There has been a groundswell of support, but we need more men to take a stand for gender equality," Watson, 24, said. "Men often think that feminism is a women's word... but if you stand for gender equality, you are a feminist."

She said the campaign was not about men saving women and also called upon women to support the campaign.

"It's uncomfortable and awkward for women to acknowledge there is a problem, but we need to understand we are complicit," she said.

She said she was pleased with the response to the Impact 10X10X10 initiative, a one-year pilot project launched in January seeking commitments from governments, companies and universities on women's empowerment and gender equality.

Several countries, including Sweden, the Netherlands and Sierra Leone, have backed the campaign, she said.

This article was first published on Mar 10, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.