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Civil code defines, bans sexual harassment

The move is unprecedented in China's legal history. Cao Yin reports.

By Cao Yin | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-06-01 09:22
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Unequal relationships

Committing sexual harassment by taking advantage of position is a global issue, and usually high-profile cases make headlines and prompt public outrage.

China is no exception. As the #MeToo movement gained momentum globally, younger Chinese women began speaking out about sexual harassment, especially acts committed on college campuses.

At the third full session of the 13th NPC, which ended on Thursday, deputies discussed the subject and welcomed the definition of sexual harassment in the civil code.

Before she attended the session in Beijing, Fu Yuhang, an NPC deputy from Sichuan, had been following a case at a middle school in her hometown.

"What parents care about most is our children's safety on campus. I'm delighted to see that the code has attached importance to that point and is urging schools to take action when students are sexually harassed," she said. "The good thing is that through gender equality the code allows victims of sexual harassment to protect their civil rights," the environmental engineer said.

She said she was delighted with the inclusion of sexual harassment in the code, as equal protection is essential in solving such problems.

She praised the civil code's clarification of the responsibilities of schools, government agencies and businesses, saying it will make the prevention of sexual harassment more practical.

Li Zongsheng, an NPC deputy from Liaoning province, believes that explicitly banning sexual harassment via unequal relationships is a strong legal response to a growing concern.

"The legislation must explain firmly what is allowed and what is opposed. Otherwise, law enforcement departments will become lost and unable to safeguard people's rights on the body and health," she said.

Lyu, the lawyer, said, "The nature of unequal relationships is unequal power, so I think the content in the code should be extended to include imbalances in a number of other places, including social associations and organizations.

"In other words, different educational backgrounds, differences in social status and a large age gap could also result in unequal relationships."

Lyu said that in recent years his firm has provided consulting services and legal aid for many people who have alleged sexual harassment, mostly acts committed on campuses.

"Some college teachers harassed female students by demanding sexual favors for helping them revise papers or for suggesting job opportunities," he said, adding that the circumstances caused mental anguish.

"The victims wanted to fight, but they were hesitant to do so because of the pressure of seeking work and writing essays."

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