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Upping age of sexual consent will help better protect minors

By Wang Yiqing | China Daily | Updated: 2020-05-14 07:39
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National People's Congress deputy and lawyer Zhu Lieyu will submit a proposal during the upcoming two sessions to amend the Criminal Law by raising the age of consent for sex to protect minors from sexual assault.

The trigger is the recent case involving the senior executive of a listed company who is being investigated for sexually assaulting his underage foster daughter.

The legal age of consent for any kind of sexual act in China is 14 years, lower than in most other countries where it is 16 or 18.

However, because of insufficient sex education in China, those aged 14 to 16 are most vulnerable and may not be able to protect themselves against sexual assault. According to a survey by Sichuan Sexual Sociology and Sex Education Research Center at Chengdu Technological University, 13.93 percent of the 3,416 minors aged 13 to 17 years who were surveyed said they were "not sure" if they have been sexually exploited.

That is why Zhu proposes to raise the age of sexual content from 14 to 16 years in case of minors and from 14 to 18 years if one of the partners is an adult tasked with the minor's custody or education. The idea is to ensure adults do not take undue advantage of their special relationship with minors who, being at their mercy, may not be able to protect themselves against sexual abuse.

In fact, Luo Xiang, a professor of law at China University of Political Science and Law, has reportedly suggested denying sexual consent to minors with adults who have special relationship with them, such as their guardians or teachers.

The case of the senior executive allegedly sexually abusing his foster daughter has triggered wide public concern on how to better protect minors. If the existing Criminal Law fails to protect minors in a rapidly changing social environment, it is necessary for policymakers and society to promote discussion on how to improve the minors' protection mechanism. It is good to see policymakers and legal experts responding actively to the social concerns over minors' protection.

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