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Legislators mull ideas to curb child sexual assaults

By ZHAO XINYING and ZOU SHUO | China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-07 14:28
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Legislators and political advisers have called for more action to be taken to protect children, especially girls, from sexual assault.

Such measures include raising children's awareness by making content related to the crime part of the curricula in China's nine-year mandatory education system.

Sexual assaults on children have drawn increasing attention from the public over the past few years.

According to a report released on Tuesday by Girls Protection, a foundation established in 2013 to protect girls from sexual assault, 332 such incidents were exposed by the media last year. Those cases involved 845 victims, the youngest of whom was only 1 year old.

More than 90 percent of the victims were girls, the report said, and more than 70 percent of the assaults were committed by people who have frequent or close contact with children, such as teachers, relatives and neighbors.

Zhao Wanping, a national legislator who has been dedicated to researching children in rural areas, said many of the cases involved leftbehind children in impoverished areas. These children usually live with grandparents and lack the supervision or protection of their parents, who work in other cities to support the family, he said.

"Under such circumstances, the children are vulnerable to people with bad intentions, especially those who have frequent contact with them," said Zhao, who is also the deputy director of the Anhui Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

This issue has attracted the attention of many legislators and political advisers, who are discussing potential actions and ideas.

Zhao Junfu, a Supreme People's Court judge, said the amendments to the Criminal Law, which took effect on March 1, and the revised Minor Protection Law, which will take effect on June 1, have placed further emphasis on juvenile protection by adding content related to sexual assault.

Amendments to the Criminal Law, for example, stipulated that those who are found guilty of hurting children under age 10 could receive up to 10 years in prison, he said.

The laws also include detailed arrangements after sexual assaults occur, such as making efforts to protect the victims' privacy, transferring the victims to other schools and offering financial support, Zhao said.

Zhu Lieyu, a national legislator and lawyer from Guangdong province, said because many sexual assaults happen on school campuses, schools should shoulder more responsibility in protecting and helping students, such as by setting up hotlines for victims to report the crimes and providing psychological guidance and other necessary support.

However, psychological intervention after the incidents is just a remedial action with limited effect, Zhao Wanping said, adding that precautions are more important.

"The very first step is to let children know what sexual assault is and how they should react when facing such incidents," he said.

"Such information should be included in the textbooks used in the mandatory education system (primary school and middle school) and taught to raise children's awareness," he added.

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