While the Chinese society is irked by continuous media reports of sexual harassment on public transportation, experts suggest raising social awareness can play a vital role in stemming the problem.
A woman in Beijing got stabbed several times after she got into a fight with a harasser on a bus, news site thepaper.cn reported Wednesday, adding that the woman was sent to a hospital and remained in a critical condition.
This report further intensified an ongoing discussion about sexual harassment in public places, which was triggered by several reports of harassers sharing their experience of sexually harassing women on public transport in group chats.
This group of people particularly like to rub their private parts against women's bottom, and take pictures, videos or even share their "experience" with other group members.
"I just touched a female student. Her ass is so soft. But she noticed a little bit and stared at me for a second because I touched a little bit hard," a man called "King" was quoted by the Phoenix Weekly as saying.
His behavior was lauded as "brave" in this particular chat group, with other members encouraging him to share more "personal feelings."
Lack of resistance
The victims' feeling of humiliation has encouraged the harassers. A search for the keywords "metro" and "hobby" on popular instant messaging program QQ yields information about chat groups for people to share their "experience" and exchange videos or photos of victims.
While most group members claimed the victims just stare at them or simply walk away, "a few of them will fight back," user "Wurennengdang" (No one can stop me) said, according to the Phoenix Weekly.
"It's like I was hit by a heavy hammer and I was totally frozen the time when a man rubbed his private part against my leg," 26-year-old Zheng told the Global Times.
"It haunted me for days."
"Victims always feel reluctant to speak out because they are afraid that no one will be there to support them, or because they feel embarrassed to make a fuss in public," Luo Ruixue, a member of the Women Awakening Network, a women's rights group, told the Global Times.
Moreover, Luo said that some people even criticize the victims for "simply thinking too much", or ask them to let it go instead of "making a fuss."
"After I told my colleagues that I got harassed by someone on the bus, one of my colleagues (a man) half joked 'maybe it's because your dress is too seductive,'" another victim, 26-year-old Vicky, told the Global Times.
Luo said that the government has acted to try to restrain sexual harassment in recent years.
Since June, Beijing police have conducted a sting operation in an effort to stem sexual harassment on the subway, arresting over 20 men who groped or made unwanted sexual advances on female passengers.
However, a police officer told the Beijing Times that "many cases have gone unreported because the victims were either embarrassed or felt their cases wouldn't be dealt with seriously."
The metro operator in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province introduced women-only carriages in June.
The city's metro operator made the decision following suggestions from political advisors including Su Zhongyang, who pointed out that many women complained about their uncomfortable experience during rush-hour traffic.
According to the metro operator, there will be one female-only carriage in every train on metro Line 1 during rush hours-from 7:30 am to 9:30 am and between 5 pm to 7 pm on workdays.
However, many male passengers still get into these carriages because "other carriages are too crowded and men also want a comfortable and spacious ride to work," a male Guangzhou resident surnamed Ding told the Global Times.
Luo suggested the government make a law specifically targeting sexual harassment, and clearly define harassment. China does not have a specific law to punish sexual harassment; there's only a provision in the regulation on public security management which stipulates a 10-day detention and 500 yuan fine for nay harassment.
Luo added that it is important to raise public awareness about sexual harassment, especially among women. "Let women know that the harasser's behavior can cause tremendous harm, both physically and psychologically, to the victim, and teach them to have the courage to fight back," said Luo.
According to a survey conducted by Minzu University of China in 2009, among the 1,000 female respondents, only 2.1 percent of the respondents said they would report sexual harassment to the police. Over 26 percent of the women said they had suffered sexual harassment on public transportation, while 82.4 percent said they had heard or witnessed such behavior.