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Sexual Harassment Focus for Women's Rights Law

From the beginning of this year, entrusted by the Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee of the National People Congress (NPC), the All China Women's Federation has begun to prepare for the amendment of the law on the protection of women's rights and to try and figure out the key points of the amendment.

According to an article in Legal Daily on October 14, amid the discussion, the sensitive issue of women's sexual harassment attracted quite a lot of attention as one emerging and important area of women's rights.

Recent years have witnessed sexual harassment as a growing social problem in China. Two years ago, China's first sexual harassment case was ruled in Lianhua District Court of Xi'an in northwest Shaanxi Province even though there was no result as the local court rejected the defendant's charge due to a lack of evidence. On June 3, 2003, a woman in Beijing brought her former boss to the Haidian District Court for sexual harassment, which is the first of its kind in Beijing.

A survey of a non-governmental organization indicated that as high as 59.43 percent of a total 8,282 respondents admitted they suffered sexual harassment while 25.68 percent said they did not, 14.96 percent said they thought it was hard to judge.

Meanwhile, another investigation report conducted by a women survey center showed that 84 percent of women encountered sexual harassment of various kinds, among which single career women under 30 occupied the biggest group; 50 percent of sexual harassment happened in the work place, among which 36 percent were from bosses, 14 percent from colleagues; 54 percent heard pornographic jokes, 29 percent met men who liked to expose their organs, 27 percent have been touched, 8 percent women were looked in voyeurism, 2 percent suffered telephone harassment.

Liu Biao with the Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee of the NPC said that lack of relevant laws on sexual harassment is the main cause why sexual harassment could not be stopped effectively for some time. Firstly, there is no clear definition of sexual harassment in law so far. Secondly, the limited existing rules are too empty, general and impractical.

During discussion, many experts and scholars held the view that women's rights law should clearly protect against sexual harassment. It is a matter concerning how to enforce this aspect of women's legal rights.

The priority to prohibit sexual harassment requires a proper definition of what constitutes sexual harassment behavior. Xu Jingjing with Beijing Municipal People's Procuratorate sees it differently. Due to various forms and contexts of sexual harassment, it is impossible for the law to include them all. At the same time, the strict definition of sexual harassment does not exclude sexual harassment between same sexes or sexual harassment conducted by women to men since sexual rights are entitled to each citizen.

Speaking of the amendment of women rights protection law, Liu Biao pointed out hopefully that if people felt regret and depressed two years ago when the first national sexual harassment case was ruled out in Xi'an, two years later, there is greater reason for confidence with the full of expectation of success as they arise.

(China.org.cn by Zheng Guihong, October 22, 2003)


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