The Gavel – May 2014 – March Against Harassment

The Gavel – May 2014 – March Against Harassment

According to a recent survey, sexual harassment is on the rise in China, predominantly on public busses, subways or in entertainment venues. Although this is difficult to say with accuracy, there are theories explaining why there is, at the very least, the impression of an increase in such behaviour.

Sexual harassment is not defined in the Protection of Women’s Rights Law. There is only Article 39, which stipulates that women’s reputation and dignity shall be protected and use of abusive, defamatory, libelous means to damage a female’s reputation and personality is prohibited. Few provincial regulations define it in more specific ways; in Shanghai, a bill has been submitted to the city’s legislature to forbid such conduct. In Jiangsu province, the bill of Means to Perform the Protection of Women’s Rights Law was amended in 2008 regarding the term of sexual harassment; Article 32 provides that the language, text, images, electronic information, body movements containing pornographic content and actions of such nature against a woman’s wishes are prohibited. Employers should also develop necessary measures or investigative systems to prevent and combat such occurrences. Victims are entitled to the right of remedy to complain to her employer or competent authorities or can take litigation to court.

Forms of Harassment
Generally speaking, the following constitutes harassment:
(1) Flirtation or tantalizing by obscene words, such as talk about personal experiences, jokes or pornographic content
(2) Kissing a female’s face, intentional touching of private and sensitive parts
(3) Intentionally putting pornographic pictures in the workplace that result in embarrassment

How does the Chinese law punish such inappropriate acts? Five days of custody shall be imposed upon the violator or a fine of ¥500 is payable for sending obscene, abusive, or threatening messages, resulting in a disturbance to other individual’s daily life. In more serious cases, five to ten days of custody, and the ¥500 fine shall be imposed upon the violator. These punishments are not criminal penalties by nature, but rather administrative punishments of public security.

In China’s criminal law, no specific crime is stipulated as sexual harassment. However, insulting, libeling and insulting women with obscenities are included in Chinese law. If the court decides a breach of the above laws has taken place, penalties of up to three years prison apply to insulting and libeling, while two scales of up to of five years and over five years imprisonment are imposed for the crime of insulting women with obscenities. Note that a victim can resort to civil condemnation and compensation from the violator, by citing the relevant article of PRC tort law.

Deficiencies in Current Laws
China has made a good start in addressing this type of harassment but deficiencies still exist. Proving inappropriate behavior is the biggest difficulty, so victims often keep quiet and quit their job. The responsibility of harassers and their punishment if they fail in these responsibilities remain undefined; finally, what exactly constitutes an assault of this nature and how to categorize it into varying levels of seriousness is still rather vague.

Although there is more to be done, the increasing number of cases filed over the last few years suggests that women have become more conscious of their personal rights, constiuting a very positive trend.

This article is intended solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Although the information in this article was obtained from reliable official sources, no guarantee is made with regard to its accuracy and completeness.