After China’s National People’s Congress reopened last week, it established a new civil code that for the first time ever defines sexual harassment to be a legal offense. Reuters reports that Article 1,010 of the new legislation states that a person can be held accountable for “for speech, words, images or bodily actions that have been used to carry out sexual harassment against a person’s wishes,” but largely holds schools and businesses responsible for sexual misconduct without any definitive guidelines. The decision follows legislation from December 2018, when the Chinese Supreme Court added sexual harassment to a list of “causes of action,” The Washington Post reported.
“The civil code is a big step, but much more will need to be fleshed out,” Darius Longarino, a senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, told Reuters. “After all, U.S. sexual-harassment law is still developing after decades and grappling with its failures, as laid bare by MeToo.”
And yet, it feels like a tiny step in the right direction: China’s #MeToo movement, originally ignited in 2018 when a rape that occurred 20 years prior was resurfaced, has long been contentious. As it has been established on this site before, activists in China often face extreme repercussions for their organizing, as evidenced in the case of Yue Xin, the MeToo activist who went missing in October 2018 after being detained by state police for her involvement in a labor rights protest. According to The Washington Post, China’s party-state has zero tolerance for collective actions, which makes protesting challenging, and all the more impactful.