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Last Updated: Monday, 27 June, 2005, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
China to outlaw sexual harassment
Lingerie shop worker in China
China hopes to make harassment a thing of the past
Sexual harassment is soon to become a crime in China under new gender equality laws, state media have said.

Changes to laws protecting women's rights which will outlaw harassment have been submitted to lawmakers, according to news agency Xinhua.

The amendment will also say for the first time that equal rights for women are part of state policy.

The move follows a number of reports claiming that sexual harassment is a widespread problem in China.

A national survey of 8,000 women, carried out by Sina.com and Chat magazine, found 79% of female respondents had experienced sexual harassment - compared to 22% of men.

'Suffering in silence'

Meanwhile, 40% of women working for private or foreign firms had been targets of harassment compared to 18% of those in state-owned companies, a study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found.

Experts suggest many women have suffered in silence, since the country has no explicit law to deal with the problem.

According to Xinhua, since 2001 just 10 cases of sexual harassment have been brought before the courts and only one case had been proved.

"The provisions, which were newly added in the Law on Women's Right Protection to save women from sexual harassment, filled the legal gap in women's rights protection," said Professor Wu Changzhen of China University of Political Science and Law. Mr Wu is also a member of the legal team drafting the current changes.

The changes were submitted to Beijing following a meeting of lawmakers on Sunday.

As well as banning harassment, the new laws also call on all companies and government agencies to take steps to prevent the occurrence of such cases.

However, experts have warned it could be some time before the changes take effect because studies have shown women find it difficult to broach the subject.

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