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Protesters dressed as characters from "The Handmaid's Tale" chant in the Texas Capitol Rotunda under portraits of former Texas governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry in Austin, Texas, July 18, 2017.
Eric Gay/AP
Girls & Women

The Cast of 'Handmaid's Tale' Reads Heartbreaking, True Stories of Sexual Violence

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, June 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — The cast of The Handmaid's Tale joined forces with a women's rights group on Wednesday to tell real-life stories that eerily resemble the top-rating television series to promote equality for women and girls.

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In a two-minute film launched by Equality Now, the show's cast and others share the words of women and girls describing scenarios of sexual violence, sex trafficking and female genital mutilation.

"This is not fiction. This is not The Handmaid's Tale," the film says.

The Handmaid's Tale, based on a 1985 novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, imagines a totalitarian future when fertile women are forced into sexual servitude to repopulate a world facing environmental disaster.

Equality Now, with bases in New York, London, and Nairobi, is a non-governmental organisation that says it wants to use the law to protect women's rights and end such practices as trafficking, sexual violence and child marriage.

"It was a natural partnership," Yasmeen Hassan, global executive director of Equality Now, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"This is Margaret Atwood's so-called fiction but it's really not. It's a fiction that closer to reality than most people think ... We have cases on all the issues that are shown in The Handmaid's Tale in real time."

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Stories in the Equality Now film came from women in Sierra Leone, Britain, Tanzania, Jordan, Bolivia, and the United States, the group said.

"After female genital mutilation, they give you a new dress. The color cloth you wear goes from purple to red," said one account in the film.

In the TV series and novel, the fertile handmaids in servitude wear red, and the infertile wives wear blue.

"The men knew I was a child, but they didn't care. They bought me anyway," said another account.

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The short film was being promoted on social media, including Facebook, and brought in more than 700 new members on its first day, Equality Now said.

The Emmy Award-winning TV series appears on the Hulu streaming service. Actors on the show who appear in the Equality Now film include Joseph Fiennes, Samira Wiley, and Ann Dowd.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Claire Cozens and Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)