Subway company ignites uproar with sexual harassment post

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, June 26, 2012
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A Shanghai metro operator has stoked public anger after stating in an online post that women who wear revealing clothes are inviting sexual harassment.

The Shanghai No. 2 Subway Co. posted an image on its official account on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging site, on June 20, depicting a woman in a semi-transparent dress standing on a subway platform. A comment attached to the image read "if you dress like this on the subway, you will undoubtedly be harassed. The subway is full of perverts -- women, have some self-respect!"

The post was forwarded nearly 10,000 times, igniting a fierce debate about the company's meaning and intent. Many have found it to be insulting, seeing it as a way for the company to shift responsibility for maintaining safety to its passengers.

"The subway should try harder to be responsible for passenger safety instead of finding excuses for criminals and blaming the crime on the victims!" Women's Voice, a Beijing-based NGO that works to promote gender equality, wrote on its own official Sina Weibo account in response to the subway company's post.

Objections in cyberspace escalated to a real-life protest on Sunday, when two women showed up on the Shanghai subway with their heads and faces covered by black cloth, holding flyers protesting the subway company's post.

The metro company has not yielded to demands to delete the post.

"Our initial motive behind the post was to affirm our stand against sexual harassment and gender discrimination and to remind passengers to dress appropriately in public places in order to avoid unnecessary trouble," said Chen Kuang, an official with the subway company.

"There are no legal regulations about what a woman can wear in public, but that does not mean that we can do anything that isn't forbidden by the law," said Shen Yifei, a professor of gender studies at Fudan University.

Behaving properly in public is a lesson that many women need to learn, she said.

Shanghai police said incidents of sexual harassment in the city's subway stations have been on the rise since summer began.

On June 13, a man was caught by police after ejaculating on a woman's legs in a crowded subway compartment. A day earlier, a man was caught by another passenger while trying to take upskirt photographs in a subway station. On June 1, three female passengers reported that a man exposed his genitals in front of them in a subway station.

Sexual harassment in subway cars and stations is not unique to China. Some subway lines in Japan and India feature gender-segregated cars to prevent incidents of harassment.

Gender-segregated cars have been called for by some netizens, although Shanghai subway authorities have said they have no plans to create such cars in the near future.

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