Residents ponder effects of sexual harassment law

A RECENT survey conducted among Beijing residents showed that females are the main group subject to sexual harassment. 

As high as 71% of females questioned said they had encountered sexual harassment, of which 54% heard dirty jokes, 29% met with exhibitionists, 27% were forced into body contact with others, 8% got peeped at and 2% received harassing telephone calls.  

The survey was made amidst a public debate on whether laws should be enacted to punish sexual harassment. Some experts worry that legal definition of such acts, if not made clear enough, may cause social and psychological problems.  

Feng Jie, a psychological doctor at a hospital affiliated to the People's Liberation Army, expressed worry that to punish sexual harassment by way of law may inevitably bring psychological pressure to people and hold them back from normal associations with their colleagues and friends.  

When the line between legal and illegal behaviours is unclear to the masses, it may make them inhibited in their normal life and contacts, he added.  

Since a law on sexual harassment is closely connected with people's social life, its making requires not only consideration on protecting the victims' interests but also normal communications and intercourse between people, he said.  

A computer company marketing manager said: “In the past we often made jokes on women colleagues and I didn't find anything improper in that. But if we really have a law on sexual harassment, I'm afraid someday I'll be framed.” 

But Feng was still in support of the law although it may risk social and psychological problems, saying that “the problem has to do with people's mentality but not with the law itself”.  

Hong Daode, a professor at China University of Political Sciences and Law, believed that it was not the right time to make a law on sexual disturbances, saying that the supreme court should give a judicial interpretation first. 

However, Xu Weihua of the All-China Women's Federation disagreed. She said: “Law experts should listen to opinions from the whole society and make a law based on reality. A law only draws the bottom line and if you don't cross that line you are not committing sexual harassment defined by law.” – People's Daily  

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