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China Outlaws Sexual Harassment

China's legislature Sunday passed amendments to the law on women's rights protection, which "prohibits sexual harassment of women" and empowers women to "lodge complaints" to relevant organizations.

"This is the first time the issue of sexual harassment has been written into Chinese law," said Wu Changzhen, professor at the China University of Political Science and Law. "It provides the legal basis for handling such issues."

For a long time, "sexual harassment" has been regarded as a moral issue rather than a legal one in China. Of the nearly 10 sexual harassment cases that entered legal proceedings since 2001,only one plaintiff wins.

In a survey of more than 8,000 Chinese people, jointly conducted by two major media organizations Sina and Fortnight, 78 percent of the men said they had never experienced sexual harassment while the ratio was 21 percent for women.

A survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences shows nearly 40 percent of women in private businesses and foreign-funded businesses has experienced sexual harassment.

Chinese law experts call the new clause an improvement in China's legal system, noting the system now strives to provide all-round protection to people, both physically and psychologically.

According to the amendments passed at a meeting of the Standing committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the State Council, or the cabinet, will work out China Development Program for Women and local government across the country will map out development planning for women.

The state should also work to gradually improve the ratio of women in the seats of the NPC and people's congresses at various levels.

The amendments, to take effect from Dec. 1, 2005, also contains a clause that states "granting men and women equal status is a basic state policy of the country. The state will adopt necessary measures to gradually improve various systems to guarantee the rights and interests of women and remove all sorts of discrimination against women."

New stipulations on women's issues in the amendments also include political rights, employment, birth insurance and domestic violence.

(Xinhua News Agency August 29, 2005)

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