Global Times Mobile
btn_back
China

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Chinese singer Li Mao recently revealed on his Weibo that his sister was sexually harassed by an executive at the Swiss-owned company she works at in Shanghai.

Because she herself was unwilling to expose the perpetrator's misdeeds to her superiors out of fear of losing her job, her brother took the initiative to seek social media-style justice.

The strategy worked. Just eight hours after making the post, which was shared tens of thousands of times by Li's fans and received hundreds of thousands of "likes," the company announced that the executive had been fired.

However, many netizens believe that the only reason the firm took swift action was because Li is a celebrity.

Sadly, this is probably accurate. Like many women who have experienced gender bias or sexual harassment in the workplace, Li's little sister, a mere intern, felt that she should "eat her bitterness" instead of upsetting her superiors.

As many companies in China are unwilling to sacrifice a high-level executive just to protect a young female worker, she was inclined to believe that nothing could be done.

Her account reminded me of another news item from earlier this year about a female reporter working at a Chinese news agency who had been raped by her boss.

Because of his connections, she feared the police would never help her. Her horrible experiences were shared online, and after they went viral, police investigated and ultimately determined that her boss was guilty.

Once again, social media played a large part in giving a voice to the victim. But for the average female who has faced sexual violence, most prefer to just keep quiet rather than publicly humiliate themselves or risk retribution by their superiors.

A 2012 survey by parenting website Mumsnet found that 83 percent of women across the world who had been sexually assaulted did not report it to the police or even to their friends and family.

Overall, most of the victims felt too ashamed, while others saw no point due to the low conviction rate of rapists in their respective country's legal system.

As a university-aged Chinese female, I must admit that the majority of women I know would also never report a sexual assault, as many Chinese have little faith in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The way the law is written, there are strict criteria about what evidence is admissible in a sexual assault case. Women are also often blamed for such encounters and portrayed as "flirtatious" or "loose."

Worse, some local media are reluctant to report sex assault cases unless they first become popular on social media platforms.

Then it becomes "newsworthy," prompting authorities to "investigate the claims." Too bad most of us don't have famous brothers.

Lung Ying-tai, the Taiwanese author of Dear Andreas, a collection of letters between her and her eldest son, wrote: "My dear child, have you ever thought that the happiness and freedom you are able to enjoy today is because your predecessors have protested or even sacrificed their lives to fight for it. If you think the misfortune of others has nothing to do with you, then if one day it does happen to you, nobody will also care. I believe our society can only be safe when everyone is willing to take responsibility, or we can only lead a life in danger and in fear."

Lung's words are inspirational for both men and women to fight together against social inequities.

For example, prior to 2015, any male caught having sex with a girl under the age of 14 (including children) could receive lenient sentences by saying the child had been paid/compensated for sex.

Only last year was this legal loophole reclassified as "rape," which goes to show that sexual assault is finally being taken seriously by China's patriarchal power structure.

This, then, is why Chinese women who have experienced sexual violence ought to speak up and report their claims. Don't back down, even if it means risking losing your job. After all, any company that protects rapists is probably not somewhere you want to keep working.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.