Heav­ier penalty needed to de­ter mo­lesters

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Aman nearly slit the throat of a woman on a bus dur­ing the morn­ing rush hour on Mon­day in Bei­jing’s Tongzhou district af­ter the lat­ter slapped him for “touch­ing her in­ap­pro­pri­ately”. The in­ci­dent was just one of the many cases of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in re­cent times, which have se­ri­ously hurt the vic­tims’ le­gal rights and in­ter­ests, shaken the peo­ple’s sense of se­cu­rity, and bro­ken the nor­mal so­cial or­der.

The hor­ri­fy­ing knife at­tack comes amid a spe­cial po­lice drive against mo­lesters plagu­ing the pub­lic trans­porta­tion net­work dur­ing the sum­mer. Sex­ual ha­rass­ment cases in­crease dur­ing the sum­mer be­cause, as many say, women tend to dress light in the sum­mer months. A Peo­ple’s Daily re­port says 20 men sus­pected of grop­ing or mak­ing un­wanted sex­ual ad­vances on women in the cap­i­tal’s sub­way have been de­tained dur­ing the cam­paign that was launched on June 16.

How­ever, the 20 sus­pects may be just a frac­tion of the to­tal num­ber of sex­ual of­fend­ers in Bei­jing, as many of the cases are not re­ported to po­lice. The dif­fi­culty in col­lect­ing ev­i­dence against the sus­pects and some vic­tims’ re­luc­tance to re­port sex­ual ha­rass­ment, partly out of so­cial taboo, em­bolden the mo­lesters.

The au­thor­i­ties are obliged to make the pub­lic en­vi­ron­ment safer by, among other things, stem­ming the in­creas­ingly ram­pant threat to pub­lic se­cu­rity. It is there­fore laud­able that Shen­zhen in Guang­dong prov­ince has started des­ig­nat­ing women-only cars in met­ros dur­ing week­day rush hours.

But the au­thor­i­ties should also in­crease the pun­ish­ment for sex­ual ha­rass­ment to de­ter po­ten­tial mo­lest- ers. The max­i­mum pun­ish­ment for even a con­firmed mo­lester is 10-day de­ten­tion and a fine of 500 yuan ($74), ac­cord­ing to the Law on the Pro­tec­tion of Women’s Rights and In­ter­ests, which has re­mained un­changed since its en­force­ment in 2005. So leg­is­la­tors need to re­vise the law and im­pose heav­ier penal­ties on mo­lesters. Per­haps there is need to put the names of con­firmed mo­lesters on a “black­list”, mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult for them to get so­cial wel­fare ben­e­fits and pub­lic ser­vices. Also, of­fend­ers who are part of or­ga­nized mo­lest­ing groups should be pun­ished ac­cord­ing to the Crim­i­nal Law, in­stead of the Law on the Pro­tec­tion of Women’s Rights and In­ter­ests or pub­lic se­cu­rity reg­u­la­tions. It is also im­por­tant to en­cour­age women to fight back. Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, many mo­lesters have con­fessed they may re­treat once a woman gives them a stare. And women us­ing pub­lic trans­port should come to their fel­low pas­sen­gers’ help. It is heart­en­ing to see more and more women, es­pe­cially the younger gen­er­a­tions in cities, fight­ing back against mo­lesters, by mak­ing use of new me­dia to ex­pose the of­fend­ers and reporting to po­lice. On their part, the au­thor­i­ties should in­stall more close-cir­cuit cam­eras in crowded pub­lic places, es­pe­cially buses and sub­ways, so as to make it eas­ier to gather ev­i­dence against sex of­fend­ers. One can­not be neu­tral on the is­sue of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, so the en­tire so­ci­ety should unite against mo­lesters to pro­tect women.

The au­thor is a colum­nist for Le­gal Daily, where the ar­ti­cle was first pub­lished on July 18.

SONG CHEN / CHINA DAILY

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