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Women to Get Protection from Harassment

Sexual harassment of women is expected to become a criminal offence for the first time in China by the end of the year. 

Legal experts said Friday the draft amendment of the Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women will introduce definitions of sexual harassment and ultimately lead to the arrest of and punishment on offenders.


"The proposed law change is expected to be discussed later this year by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature," said Yang Dawen, a law professor with the Renmin University of China.


The draft amendment has been submitted to the State Council for a final check before being presented to the Standing Committee.


"The draft offers principle definitions and punishments for sexual harassment, which aim to provide a basic legal foundation for future detailed laws and regulations," added Yang, who is a member of an expert panel overseeing the draft amendment.


"The draft also highlighted employers' responsibility in preventing workplace sexual harassment," Yang said.


Calls for legislation to clarify definitions and punishments for sexual harassment have long been heard.


A recent survey carried out by the Beijing-based China Times newspaper found a staggering 86 percent of women respondents in China's capital city have been the victims of sexual harassment.


Women are most at risk when traveling on public transport but the workplace, leisure venues and hospitals also leave them vulnerable.


The survey found body and verbal harassment are the most common but unwanted sleazy mobile phone short messages and emails are also a growing menace.


Most women victims remain silent during an incident and after for fear of losing face.


An increasing number of sexual harassment cases have been heard in courts across the country in recent years.


However, such cases are always complex, involving a mixture of claims and counterclaims. Judges and legal experts are left confused as no precise legal framework for sexual harassment is in place.


(China Daily March 5, 2005)

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