'Scrap' law article to better protect minors

By CAO YIN and GAO QIHUI (China Daily)
Updated: 2014-03-04 03:40

Political advisers at the two sessions have urged legislators to repeal the law that identifies sex with an underage prostitute as a crime, claiming that such crimes should be treated in the same way as the rape of a child, and punished accordingly.

Under the current law, people who have sex with prostitutes under 14 years old face a maximum of 15 years in prison, whereas those convicted of raping a child face the death sentence.

'Scrap' law article to better protect minors
2014 two sessions
Speaking at a seminar, Zhu Zhengfu, a member of the National Committee of the CPPCC, slammed the crime of prostituting girls under the age of 14. He said the law improperly treats the victims as prostitutes, rather than children who have been raped.

Zhu was joined by several other members in calling for the current law to be repealed and replaced with a new one identifying the crime as rape of a minor.

"These young girls, in fact, are too young to express true will of their own," said Zhu, who is also the vice-president of the All-China Lawyers Association.

The question of whether to scrap the charge of sex with underage prostitutes has been controversial among legal professionals since it was written into Criminal Law in 1997.

With the presentation of a report at the seminar showing a total of 125 child abuse scandals last year, the topic has come up for debate once more.

In June, Li Xingong, an official from Yongcheng, Henan province, was sentenced to death after he raped and sexually assaulted 11 girls, the youngest of whom was only 9 years old.

In May, Chen Zaipeng, the principal of a primary school in Wanning, Hainan province, and Feng Xiaosong, an officer from the local housing authority, were detained on suspicion of raping six sixth-grade students. Chen was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years in jail, while Feng got 11-and-a-half years.

In July, Sun Xiaomei, a deputy to the National People's Congress, asked the Supreme People's Court to urge legislators to repeal the law on sex with child prostitutes, hoping the judicial authority could bring about its abolition.

According to Ruan Chuansheng, a Shanghai-based lawyer specializing in criminal cases, it is difficult for courts to identify whether the victims of such crimes had been physically forced to have sex or were simply working as prostitutes.

"It was said that prostitutes should also be blamed, even if they were underage girls. It is actually our failure to protect the girls that should be blamed," Ruan said.

In October, the Supreme People's Court issued a judicial interpretation on how to deal with such cases.

It stipulates that those having sex with young girls by luring them with money and those who have sex with a prostitute they already know to be under 14 will be convicted of rape.

Ruan said that the court's interpretation has narrowed down the range of cases in which the law on sex with underage prostitutes can be applied, since most cases will now be interpreted as rape.

"But I still insisted in scrapping the charge," he added.

The seminar also saw the publication of a report on child sex abuse, based on a project called "Girl Protection" that was organized by over 100 women journalists in 2013. According to the report, about 81 percent of the 419 victims identified last year were between 8 and 14 years old.

Cao Yisun, another CPPCC member, said schools should educate children on the need to protect themselves against sexual abuse, while parents should take more care to protect their children from predators.

Cao and Zhu urged the authorities to pass a regulation making education on such matters mandatory for children.

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