Photo credit: SupChina illustration
In 2017, F Feminist, an advocacy group in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, designed a series of posters that condemned sexual harassment. One directly addressed sexual harassment on public transportation, and the group raised money to post the designs in public places. However, the group was reportedly told by officials that the posters were “too violent and could cause public anxiety,” and was never approved to post them.
Are things changing now?
Since early 2018, the #MeToo movement has taken off in China, leading to multiple powerful men being accused of sexual misconduct. Cases where men have stepped down have ranged from the founder of a major health charity to one of the country’s highest-ranking Buddhist monks, though there are other cases where victims have been harassed, intimidated, and effectively silenced for speaking out.
Still other accusers are trapped in extended legal battles, and as we describe in our article, China’s #MeToo movement, explained, the Chinese justice system is very likely not equipped to deal with these cases fairly.
Two news stories last week may show further progress for #MeToo in China.
- In one, the first court ruling punishing sexual harassment on public transport was decided in Shanghai. A man was sentenced to six months in jail for groping an adult woman and an underage girl on a subway train.
- The other story: The head of a TV station at Central South University (CSU) in Hunan Province is under investigation for alleged sexual assault.
Still a long way to go
Sexual assault on public transit is alarmingly common in China. According to a 2015 nationwide survey (in Chinese) conducted by the China Youth Daily, more than half of the 1,117 female respondents said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment on a bus or on the subway.
But while the problem has gained increasing attention since the #MeToo movement took off in China last year, the crime of forcible touching is only classified as a misdemeanor by Chinese laws.
Learn more: China’s #MeToo movement, explained.