China Defines Sexual Harassment as a Legal Offense

It's a first for the nation

Singer and activist Denise Ho at a #MeToo rally in Hong Kong
Singer and activist Denise Ho at a #MeToo rally in Hong Kong.
LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images
By Kayla Kibbe / June 5, 2020 7:30 am

After reopening at the end of May, China’s National People’s Congress established a new legal code that explicitly defines sexual harassment as a legal offense.

According to Reuters, Article 1,010 of the new legislation states that a person can be held accountable “for speech, words, images or bodily actions that have been used to carry out sexual harassment against a person’s wishes.”

The decision, which follows legislation from December 2018 in which the Chinese Supreme Court added sexual harassment to a list of “causes of action,” marks the first time China has officially declared sexual harassment a legal offense.

While the decision is a landmark for China’s #MeToo movement, which has faced extreme challenges and repercussions since first being ignited in 2018, some have noted that the nation, like many others, still has a long way to go in the fight against sexual violence.

“The civil code is a big step, but much more will need to be fleshed out,” Darius Longarino, a senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, told Reuters. “After all, U.S. sexual-harassment law is still developing after decades and grappling with its failures, as laid bare by #MeToo.”

Reuters also noted that the new legislation lacks definitive guidelines for schools and businesses, which are held responsible for sexual misconduct.

While Reuters called the move a “largely symbolic step,” lawyers and activists told the outlet it could pave the way for more meaningful change and legislation supporting sexual-harassment survivors in the future.

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