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Women Now More Aware of Sexual Harassment
More than 70 percent of Beijing women have experienced sexual harassment and half of them have protested against it, according to a survey published in Beijing Youth Daily, the capital's most influential newspaper.

The newspaper, in association with the Datasea research company, recently interviewed 200 Beijingers aged between 25 and 45, with at least junior college education.

The survey also showed that, although women are still the major targets in sexual harassment, the possibilities for men also undergoing similar treatment is rapidly rising.

Those surveyed described sexual harassment as including bodily contact (86 percent), indecent exposure (62 percent), peeping (61 percent) and sexual jokes (44 percent).

Nearly half said such behaviors could take place anywhere, especially in the office and public vehicles. The office is reportedly where it happens most, 61 percent saying such harassment usually involves management and employees.

Regarding being harassed by strangers, 58 percent of respondents said that buses, trains and other public transport vehicles were the most likely sites. Elsewhere, harassment comes from customers (38 percent), colleagues (37 percent) and or between teachers and students (27 percent), the survey showed.

A total of 49 percent of the respondents said they had heard of people around them complaining about harassment.

A total of 71 percent of the women respondents admitted that they had experienced the following kinds of unwelcome attention: 54 percent involving sexual jokes, 29 percent by indecent exposure, 27 percent by unwelcome bodily contact, eight percent by peeping and two percent by sexual phone calls. Most of the respondents took a cooperative attitude to the survey, only some two to five percent refusing to answer this sensitive question.

As to their reaction to harassment, almost half said they would play it down. About 37 percent said they had hinted to the harassers to stop, while another 10 percent said they remained silent. Only 14 percent said they resorted to legal means to protect themselves and a mere two percent insisted on an apology. There were also people who hoped to escape silently from the harasser. Only a minority of respondents said they would scream and hit the harassers.

Fear of losing face was the primary reason for a weak response, the survey indicated. Nearly half said they found it shameful to tell others about the experience, fearing people wouldn't understand their feelings. One-fifth said existing laws are not strong enough to protect against such wrongdoing. Nearly 10 percent feared disclosure of such cases would spark revenge and that when their bosses are involved, they might lose their jobs.

On the consequence of sexual harassment, 78 percent people in the survey believed that the victims would develop long-term psychological trauma and no longer trust strangers; 47 percent thought that the experience would have a negative effect on the victims' character and personality; 43 percent worried that could damage the victim's married life; 34 percent thought the victims might take extreme revenge on society, and 22 percent thought the sufferers might feel abandoned by society.

But who would like to stop the harassment when it happens? Only 45 percent of the respondents expressed their willingness to help the weak out of their situation; 13 percent people would act as usual as if they had noticed nothing and eight percent just kept silent.

Recently, a woman doctor-in-study lost her academic future because she refused the sexual demands of her tutor. Some 43 percent of the respondents commented this was an unavoidable result, for the current legal system lacks effective means to tackle sexual harassment. Another 28 percent thought the woman should be admired, but eight percent thought it was unwise for her to abandon her studies.

The most effective way to minimize the hurt in harassment is to seek legal aid (64 percent respondents hold this idea). And almost half of the people in the survey thought shouting and reacting fiercely to the offenders also works. Another half reminded victims to be aware of the need to obtain evidence to use against offenders.

A total of 93 percent of the woman respondents thought it was necessary to enact strict laws on sexual harassment, compared to 84 percent of the males surveyed.

As China doesn't have any laws on sexual harassment at present, there is still a long way to go for the government and legislators to solve the problem by legal means.

(china.org.cn by James Liu, July 2, 2002)

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