Left Menu
Development News Edition

In nod to #MeToo, China codifies sexual harassment by law

Reuters | Beijing | Updated: 02-06-2020 11:26 IST | Created: 02-06-2020 09:55 IST
In nod to #MeToo, China codifies sexual harassment by law
Representative image Image Credit: ANI

Two years ago, Zhou Xiaoxuan publicly accused one of China's most recognizable people of groping and forcibly kissing her, setting off a firestorm in a country that did not specify sexual harassment as a legal offense. Last week Zhou and dozens of other women who started China's #MeToo movement won a small victory when the nation's parliament enacted legislation that for the first time defines actions that can constitute sexual harassment.

The reference in the new civil code, approved on Thursday by a session of the National People's Congress, is largely a symbolic step. While it holds schools, businesses, and other organizations responsible for preventing and dealing with sexual harassment, it does not lay out guidelines for enforcement. "The civil code is a big step, but much more will need to be fleshed out," said Darius Longarino, a senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School. "After all, U.S. sexual-harassment law is still developing after decades and grappling with its failures, as laid bare by #MeToo."

Still, some lawyers and activists say the civil code offers for the first time a nationally recognized enumeration of sexual harassment as a legal offense. Article 1,010 of the new code says a person may be held liable "for speech, words, images or bodily actions that have been used to carry out sexual harassment against a person's wishes."

The development could pave the way for further changes to allow sexual-harassment victims to seek redress, six lawyers, and activists interviewed by Reuters said. The parliament's Legislative Affairs Commission and China's State Council did not respond to faxed requests for comment about the decision to define sexual harassment in the civil code.

VICTIMS COME FORWARD China's #MeToo movement took off in 2018 when a college student in Beijing publicly accused her professor of sexual harassment. It spread to NGOs, media, and other industries.

Zhou's accusation against Zhu Jun, a well-known TV personality, was one of the most prominent. In a series of social media posts, she described a 2014 incident when she was an intern working for him at state broadcaster CCTV. She says he tried to reach into her dress and drag her onto himself, and then forcibly kissed her. Zhou's accusation quickly went viral.

Zhu denies the allegations and is countering Zhou. He could not be reached, and his lawyer declined to comment on the case or the new legislation. Some activists and lawyers are hopeful that the movement is starting to lead to real change, starting with the mention in the civil code.

"MeToo's spread has made a huge push on this matter of law," said Zhou, who says much more needs to be done to protect the rights of sexual-violence victims. "But this may be a process, and you can't solve it in one leap." More than a year and a half later, there have been no hearings in the case brought by Zhou in September 2018. Most Chinese #MeToo cases remain unresolved, activists say.

Zhou filed hers under the category "personality rights" - a broad term in Chinese law that includes rights applying to one's body and health - because sexual harassment was not recognized as a legal cause of action. "If you wanted to go bring a court case, then you had to bring a labor dispute - it was very difficult," said a woman who brought her own #MeToo accusation against a prominent charity founder in 2018 and who works under the name Huahua for privacy and safety. She ultimately chose not to take her accusation to court.

Sexual harassment remains sensitive in China. The movement, despite bursts of grassroots activity, has faced government pressure and censorship, the activists said. The State Council did not respond to requests for comment about the allegations of pressure and censorship.



COVID-19 seems cooking biggest ever global scam

The increasing number of corruption cases on COVID-19 funds from throughout the world and involvement of high profile persons indicate that the countries cant ignore corruption in their pandemic response programs. This has generated the nee...

Health Management Information Systems lack holistic, integrated, and pandemic resilient character

Being a part of the United Nations system, the World Health Organization WHO deserves its share of rebuke for its alleged failure issue COVID-19 health emergency alerts on appropriate time. However, the pandemic has also exposed loopholes i...

Pride in the time of coronavirus: a welcome move online?

This year is different in many ways not least as celebrations are also taking place against the dramatic backdrop of a global health crisis and a resurgence in grassroots activism following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. ...

COVID-19: Weighing up the benefits and limitations of edtech platforms

Edtech companies shouldnt focus on merely pushing contents, but to provide an interactive, effective teaching and learning environment. ...


Latest News

Amavarathi movement enters 200th day; NRIs from AP back move

Amaravati, July 4 PTI As the protest seeking Amaravati as the capital of Andhra Pradesh enters its 200th day, around one lakh non-resident people of Andhra living around the world on Saturday expressed solidarity with agitating farmers for ...

237 personnel of Maharashtra Police test COVID-19 positive

As many as 237 personnel of Maharashtra Police tested COVID-19 positive in the last 72 hours, taking the active cases in the force to 1,040, informed the Maharashtra Police. Out of the total COVID-19 cases in the force, 64 personnel have su...

COVID-19: Goa will set up plasma bank, says health minister

Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane on Saturday said the state will have a plasma bank to treat COVID-19 patients. He said Goa Medical College and Hospital already has the facilities required to operate such a bank and people who have recove...

Ugandan dies after setting fire to himself over motorcycle impounded over COVID-19 violations

A Ugandan man has died after setting fire to himself in a police station when officers allegedly demanded a bribe to release his motorcycle, which he was using as a taxi and which had been impounded over violation of coronavirus restriction...

Give Feedback