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Chinese Women Appeal for Effective Anti-harassment Legislation

Delegates to the National Women's Congress on Thursday called for effective laws to protect women from sexual harassment.

The prevalence of sexual harassment was mainly because the country's laws and regulations were not practical enough to defeat it, the delegates observed.

The crime of sexual harassment, for example, has not been written into the criminal law, said Chen Hongjuan, a law expert from south China's Hainan Province.

The lack of effective laws rendered women with no effective weapon to protect themselves from harassment, she said, urging the government to strengthen laws by clarifying what makes it a crime, and by creating concrete measurement of infringement to make the laws more workable.

According to Chen, few women stand up to prosecute harassers as women are usually shy and they often face a series of judicial problems like evidence collection and concept definition when trying to do so.

Work environments, according to delegates, have become the hardest-hit area of sexual harassment, where an increasing number of cases emerge either between the superior and subordinate, between peer colleagues, or with business associates.

Besides, an increasing number of women are hurt by new forms of harassment such as text messages with obscene content, Chen said.

"Sexual harassment is one kind of gender discrimination," said Xia Yinlan, a professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, adding such behavior seriously insult women's dignity, infringes on their personal rights and cause great harm to them both physically and mentally.

Chen urged women to bravely stand up and say "no" whenever they face harassment.

According to the delegates, east China's Jiangsu Province, through local legislation early this year, has made a detailed definition of sexual harassment. Fujian, Henan, Hebei provinces and Chongqing municipality have also followed suit, leaving 26 mainland provinces which have not done so.

According to the local laws, sexual harassment violating a woman's will is forbidden, either by means of oral or written language, pictures, electronic messages or body language.

(Xinhua News Agency October 31, 2008)

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