New draft of China’s civil code touches upon sexual harassment, NGOs propose amendments

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The draft of a new section of China’s Civil Code was recently released in order to solicit feedback from the public. The deadline for providing feedback was November 13. What is most noteworthy is that, for the first time, the draft includes the prevention of sexual harassment. The issue of sexual harassment has drawn much attention in China this year due to the spread of the #metoo movement. According to the draft, if someone molests other people against their will through their speech, actions, or by making use of a position of authority, the victim can request that the perpetrator bear civil liability according to the law. Employers also need to undertake all reasonable measures for prevention, receiving complaints and handling cases of sexual harassment.

An NGO called Equality, initiated by experienced feminist activists and scholars and established in 2014, has got together with some other organizations active in this field and proposed amendments to some of the clauses. The changes mainly relate to the chapter on personal rights, marriage and family. Among the suggested changes, the most important one is that if the employer doesn’t take any action to punish or report the perpetrator, the victims can also demand that the employer bear civil liability according to the law. The justification presented is that it is hard to implement a regulation without delineating clear responsibilities, and when the employer is forced to take responsibility they are more likely to take practical action.

As reported by NGOCN, Wei Tingting, the initiator of the Guangzhou Gender Education Center, launched a related questionnaire among colleges and universities in 2017. According to the 6592 responses received, nearly 70% of students have been subjected to sexual harassment, and only 4% of cases were reported to the school or the police. Among those who chose not to report, 60% of them claimed that reporting the incident would have been useless. According to Wei, many of the victims lacked experience of how to respond to such situations, while the difficulty in collecting evidence, the complicated legal procedures, the insufficient privacy protection and the moral blaming of the victim were all further obstacles. It was concluded that the most important thing at the moment is to offer education and training on sexual harassment.