One in five working women sexually exploited in China: Survey


Shanghai/Beijing: A survey has revealed how unsafe it is turning out for the women in China to work at offices, with one in five women respondents admitting to have suffered sexual harassment at her workplace.

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The survey, released by Women’s Watch China, a Beijing-based non-profit organisation, has revealed that most of the victims put up with routine sexual exploitation at workplace helplessly, fearing social repercussions or loss of job if they object to it.

The poll found 20 percent of the 1,837 participants from 10 enterprises in Guangdong, Jiangsu and Hebei provinces and Beijing had been sexual harassment victims, the China Daily reported.

The survey’s definition of sexual harassment included acts of leering, getting inappropriately close, sending text messages or e-mails with sexual content, improper behaviour such as obscene gestures or flashing, kissing, hugging and even rape.

It has been learnt through the survey that despite the vast number of victims, most of them choose to maintain silence about their ordeals or leave their jobs instead of reporting these or taking legal action against their attackers. They do so because of a lack of support structures and difficulties in gathering evidence.

Only 45.6 percent of those who were victimised took issue with their harassers and just 34.3 percent reported the person to managers. Fewer than 20 percent called police or took legal action.

In contrast, 87.4 percent of the respondents who had never experienced harassment said they thought they would warn their harassers “if sexual harassment occurred,” and 70 percent said they would report or sue the harasser.

The reason why many women who fall victim to such assaults in the real world do not report the incidents is that they worry about negative fallout from doing so, such as being the target of gossip, being forced to leave their jobs and being paid less or downgraded, it was learnt.

Only five percent of the victims said they knew who to call after they were harassed.

“A lot of female victims choose to be silent because they are afraid of losing their jobs, especially when the harasser is their boss or a superior,” said Chen Wei, a lawyer specialising in women’s issues at Beijing-based law firm.

“Even though some victims are brave enough to seek legal help, they realise it is difficult to collect evidence because the harassment usually happens behind closed doors without someone else present or happens quickly before the victim has time to react,” Chen said.