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Government to ban sexual harassment
Updated: 2005-06-27 14:17

The central government wants to ban sexual harassment as a draft amendment to a law protecting the rights of women was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in Beijing yesterday for first deliberation.

According to the draft amendment, no one shall be allowed to subject women to sexual harassment and all work units shall take measures against sexual harassment.

"It is the first time for China to forbid sexual harassment with legislation," said Wu Changzhen, professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, who was also the head of the draft team of the amendment.

Surveys have found that many professional women across the country experience sexual harassment in the workplace. One national survey found among more than 8,000 respondents, 22 percent of males and 79 percent of females experienced sexual harassment. The survey was conducted by Sina.com and the official Fortnightly Chat Magazine.

Another survey, organized by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, showed nearly 40 percent of professional women - who worked for either private enterprises or foreign companies - suffered sexual harassment. About 18 percent of women experienced sexual harassment in state-owned enterprises.

Another survey, conducted by Liaoning Province in the northeast, found more than 70 percent of women working in service industries suffered sexual harassment.

Wu said although sexual harassment was not as severe as rape, it could bring physical injury and emotional pressure. In serious situations, sexual harassment sufferers can lose their love-making ability and become depressed.

However, for a long period it was regarded as an ethical issue in the country. Few citizens appealed to the law after experiencing sexual harassment. Since 2001, courts have only received 10 cases concerning sexual harassment.

Jiang Yongping, research fellow with the All-China Women's Federation, spoke highly of the provision, which reads as "all work units shall take measures against sexual harassment in working places."

She said work units have a responsibility to create a safe working environment for women.

Law experts also said rooting out sexual harassment will take time. They said evidence collection is difficult and Chinese women usually are embarrassed to make such matters public.

The draft amendment also included another clause. It stated that at least one woman member should be included in each village committee and more measures should be taken to raise their political status.

The draft amendment was submitted for the first deliberation to the ongoing 16th session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

Mo Wenxiu, vice chairwoman of the All-China Women's Federation, said although many achievements have been made in protecting women's rights there are still a few loopholes that need to be closed.

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