Shaanxi lawmakers have drafted a new provincial regulation strengthening the Women's Rights Protection Law in order to better stop sexual harassment.
The regulation, expected to come into vigor next year, is aimed at bolstering gaps in the anti-sexual harassment provisions drafted into the Women's Rights Protection Law last year.
Representatives from the provincial people's congress are currently drafting implementation guidelines for the Women's Rights Protection Law of the People's Republic of China.
The guidelines will define in detail what activities constitute sexual harassment, said Zhao Wenyuan, deputy director of the Legal Committee of Shaanxi Provincial People's Congress.
Previously, vague language in the Women's Rights Protection Law weakened the legal protections included in the landmark legislation.
According to the Shaanxi draft, any unwanted sexual advances aimed at women, featuring pornographic material or involving sexual requests in verbal, written, graphic, electronic or physical form, constitute sexual harassment.
"According to the draft version of the bill, men who whistle at or ogle women in a sexually suggestive manner, or who stare at certain parts of a woman's body could be considered as engaging in sexual harassment," the deputy director told China Daily yesterday.
Members of the Provincial People's Congress Standing Committee stated their belief that clearly redefining of what sort sexual harassment behavior would highly improve provincial legislation.
"The regulation empowers women who suffer from sexual harassment to complain to the appropriate authorities. They will be able to report men who harass them to public security officials for punishment," Zhao said.
However, Li Jun, deputy of the provincial people's congress and professor at the Northwest Law University, said the description was still not detailed enough, warning that obtaining evidence of harassment would remain difficult.
For example, on December 22, 2001, a court hearing China's first case involving sexual harassment ruled against a 30-year-old woman surnamed Tong who had sued her boss for sexual harassment, claiming insufficient evidence was provided to prove the woman's allegations.
Tong had accused her boss of harassing her at work and making obscene phone calls to her home between 1993 and 2000. The lawsuit attracted much attention to the issue, and last year the provisions were included in the Women's Rights Protection Law.
However, because the Women's Protection Law definitions are vague, many provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have added their own detailed supplements to clearly define the practice.
On October 25, the Shanghai People's Congress started reviewing the country's first local regulations to clearly define sexual harassment. Shaanxi has followed suit.
"If Tong's lawsuit had taken place today, the new regulation would have worked in the victim's favor," the professor said.
The draft also touches on other women's-rights issues. For example, it calls for an increase in female officials in the local government; it requires schools to ensure enrolment for female students; it protects women from early retirement; and it guarantees rural women access to free childbirth services in hospital, Zhao said.
(China Daily December 1, 2006)