British actresses demand end to sexual harassment ahead of the Baftas

Olivia Rudgard
Jodie Whittaker is among those to sign the letter - Getty Images Europe

More than 190 of Britain's leading female actresses are demanding an end to sexual harassment ahead of the Bafta Awards.

Stars including Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson, Naomie Harris and Jodie Whittaker are among signatories to an open letter vowing support for the Time's Up movement, set up following the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal.

The publication of the letter comes as many stars prepare to wear black at the ceremony in a show of solidarity with their American colleagues who held a similar protest at the Golden Globe Awards last month.

The British celebrities urge people to donate to a new UK Justice and Equality Fund aimed at supporting women who are victims of abuse in “all industries”.

Emma Watson signed the open letter Credit: Jesse Grant /Getty

The open letter - published in The Observer and signed by actors including Emma Watson, Gemma Arterton, Letitia Wright and Olivia Colman - states: "This movement is bigger than just a change in our industry alone.”

It adds: "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."

Emma Thompson has given her support to the  Time's Up movement Credit:  NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP

The stars will be joined at the Baftas by activists in a move that mirrors the Golden Globe Awards in America. 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, will be among the guests.

The letter adds: “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.”

Calls for women to wear black at the the Baftas has led to speculation about whether the Duchess of Cambridge, who is due to attend the event, will join in.

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