Draft bill details sexual harassment

By Cao Li and Mark South (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-10-27 06:34

SHANGHAI: Telling sexist jokes, emailing porn to colleagues or sexually-salacious texting are all set to be outlawed under a draft bill currently under review by the city authorities.

Once approved by the Standing Committee of the Shanghai People's Congress, the Shanghai Supplement to the Women's Protection Law will become the first law in China's history to clearly define sexual harassment.

Ge, an official with the Shanghai Women's Association, said the group had received few complaints about sexual harassment but the subject is a hot topic in the media and stories of "groping" in public transport abound on the Internet.

"A major problem is that we just don't know how widespread sexual harassment is because so few women speak out many women who suffer harassment are too embarrassed to take the matter further," Ge explained.

Shanghai lawyer Si Weijiang told China Daily that despite their high profile, there are currently very few cases brought for sexual harassment. The lack of a clear definition of the offence and the difficulty in proving a case which often boils down to one person's word against another's, have made pursuing such cases difficult, Si said.

Last year, Shanghai Xuhui District People's Court heard the city's first ever suit for sex harassment. A young woman sued her doctor for unnecessarily touching her private parts during an examination. The first court ruling went against the woman, but she has since appealed to the Shanghai No 1 Intermediate People's Court to review the decision.

Commenting on the new law, Xu Yuzhou, lawyer for the woman who claims to have been groped by her doctor, said there was still much work to be done since sex harassment became an offence enshrined in law for the first time last year.

"The Shanghai Supplement helps give a much clearer definition of what the law means by sexual harassment," he said.

Jiang Qin, a 33-year-old designer, said she fully supported the law, adding that in the past she had received sexual text messages from men which she considered to be harassment.

Ida Relsted, from Denmark, said it was good to have a law, which might make men think twice before sending sexist or harassing messages.

"It's still not enough though and more needs to be done, both in terms of the law and in educating people what is and isn't acceptable," she said.

According to Xu, evidence is the most important but problematic area of such cases. "At the moment there is no law which specifies what kind of evidence is admissible and how much evidence is needed.

"The draft also does not include definition about damages."

The revision stipulates that words, pictures and electronic information insinuating sex or bodily contact that "injures" a woman is sexual harassment. It does not, however, define the extent of the "injury."