More sexual assault at work reported

Updated: 2012-01-05 07:57

By Luo Wangshu and Cao Yin (China Daily)

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BEIJING - While more and more women receive counsel regarding sexual harassment in workplaces in recent years, very few of them turn to court, female rights experts said at a seminar in Beijing.

"One reason being that sexual harassment in workplaces is rapidly growing in recent years," said Guo Jianmei, a well-known public interest lawyer specializing in rights of women and children. Guo is the director of Beijing Zhongze Women's Legal Counseling and Service Center.

Since 2007, the center has received 183 counseling calls on sexual harassment, and taken up 47 cases in total. Among these, 34 percent are related to workplaces.

According to Guo, it is a sign that Chinese women are getting increasingly aware of their rights, preferring to call for help rather than suffer silently.

The founder of an education training business in Shenzhen was sentenced to jail in 2011 after a female employee told the police that he raped her.

Luo Yun (not her real name) reported to the police that her former boss Song Shanmu forced her to appear nude in photographs and raped her. After Song's conviction, a few more employees reported they had been raped or harassed by Song as well.

While women like Luo are showing courage in reporting such cases, fellow sufferers now have easier access to useful information and legal service hotlines, courtesy the Internet.

However, Guo Jianmei told China Daily that women who reported cases were still in a minority.

"First, victims need to know how to claim help and where to get the information from," Guo said. She referred to a case in which a maid was raped by her employer many times, resulting in several abortions, but she had no access to help.

"About 100 to 200 million women in China have suffered or are suffering sexual harassment in the workplace, but only very few legal service centers provide counseling," Guo said.

Chen Wei, an attorney specializing in women's rights protection at Ying Ke Law Firm in Beijing, told China Daily that she received many phone calls for advice about harassment in workplaces, but very few clients would take the case to court.

Clients chose to step back because they were afraid of making such cases public, having to quit their jobs, sometimes, as a result, and having to take the blame for the incident.

While collecting incontrovertible evidence to prove sexual harassment is difficult, that to ascertain verbal harassment even more so. "It is not possible for clients to carry a recorder to work everyday," says Chen.

"The police too do not pay enough attention to sexual harassment," said Zhu Yantao, a retired senior official at the criminal investigation bureau from the Ministry of Public Security. "We focus more on relatively serious cases like robbery and bombing but neglect sexual harassment in workplaces."