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Doubts Rise over Sexual Harassment Legislation
A recent survey conducted among Beijing residents showed that the female are the main group subject to sexual harassment. As high as 71 percent females questioned said they once encountered sexual harassment, of which 54 percent heard dirty jokes, 29 percent met with exhibitionists, 27 percent were forced into body contacts with others, 8 percent got peeped and 2 percent received harassing telephone calls.

Therefore, punishing the sexual harassment via the means of lawmaking has become a focus of public appeal. But some experts are worrying that the legal definition of such conducts, if not made clear enough, may cause social and psychological problems.

Feng Jie, a psychological doctor of a hospital affiliated to the People's Liberation Army, expressed his worry that to punish sexual harassment by way of law making may inevitably bring psychological pressure to people at its initial stage and hold them back from normal associations with their colleagues and friends. The new law, those lines between legal and illegal behaviors unclear to the masses, may fill people with awe and make them inhibited in their normal life and contacts, Feng explained.

Since a law on sexual harassment is closely connected with people's social life, its making requires not only consideration on protecting the interests of the victims but also the normal communications and intercourse between people, Feng said.

An interview of some common residents proved expert's worries.

Mr Liu, a marketing manager in a computer company, said "in the past we often made jokes on women colleagues in the company, and I didn't find anything improper in that. But if we will really have a law on sexual harassment I'm afraid someday I'll be landed in frame-ups".

Miss Luo from a cosmetics company said "my job needs me to frequently dine out with my clients. If the law has no clear-cut definitions on what is sexual harassment it is sure to spoil my relations with my clients for I will no longer feel free to make jokes on them".

Law is made to punish whoever breaks it and to notice people what can be done and what not. So doctor Feng Jie is still in support of the law making although it may risk social and psychological problems, saying "the problem to be caused has things to do with people's mentality but not with the law itself".

So people must get psychologically adapted to the new law. First they should get themselves to know it so as to get rid of the uncertainty in their hearts. Then they should pay attention to their words spoken and behaviors, particularly those who are used to making jokes with women colleagues, especially in a case when the latter reject such a way of communications. Finally they must place themselves in a right place and not to bring everything onto themselves should they actually do nothing wrong.

The worries will fade away along with promotion of a new law, Feng said. Of course, there may have some weak-minded people whose unnecessary misgivings develop into anxiety or obsessive compulsory neurosis. In that case they must go to see doctors.

If the new law is established without a clear definition on sexual disturbances, it will surely cast a negative effect on people's society with others, said Hong Daode, professor of the China University of Political Sciences and Law. "I personally believe that this is not the right time of making a law on sexual disturbances, and the supreme court should first give a judicial interpretation", he added.

While Xu Weihua from All-China Women's Federation holds the opposite views. "Law experts should listen to opinions from the whole society and make a law based on reality. We trust the ability of our experts. What's more, a law only draws the bottom-line for someone's behavior and if you don't cross that line you are not committing the sexual harassment enacted by law. So personally I don't believe law making on sexual harassment will spoil normal relationship between people".

(People's Daily July 9, 2003)

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