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2020-01-09 11:34:02

China’s state-sponsored women’s rights group has partnered with the country’s top prosecutor to propose a new reporting mechanism that could better protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and workplace discrimination.

Announced Tuesday, the joint notice from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the All-China Women’s Federation proposes that, whenever local women’s federation branches become aware of cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, or other civil rights violations, they should promptly report them to local prosecutors. The prosecutor would then be required to report back to the women’s federation once the case is resolved, according to the notice, which is now open to public feedback before being considered for formal adoption.

“The notice’s emphasis on the procuratorate’s duty will be helpful for domestic violence cases,” Jia Xinyan, an attorney with a Shanghai-based collective of women lawyers providing legal services for the city’s women’s federation, told Sixth Tone. “The procuratorate is responsible for bringing criminal charges. Introducing the procuratorate’s power to cases of domestic violence not only has a deterrent effect, but also increases the chances of domestic violence being handled as a criminal rather than civil case.”

The notice also stresses the responsibility of prosecutors to punish workplace gender discrimination. “When workplace discrimination is detected at state authorities and state-owned enterprises, procuratorates can either recommend how the case should be handled or prosecute it directly,” the notice said.

By specifically targeting state-affiliated entities, the proposed policy would fill an existing gap, according to Guo Jing, a social worker who in 2014 became the first person in China to successfully sue a prospective employer for workplace discrimination.

“Under the current law, officials such as those from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security are not authorized to intervene in cases involving state authorities,” said Guo, who now runs a hotline for women facing workplace discrimination.

However, Guo is skeptical about whether the proposed policy will actually improve the status quo. “Officials keep introducing new regulations, but the problem is less about what the law says and more about how the authorities implement it,” she said.

A group of volunteers calling themselves the Inspection Team for Workplace Gender Discrimination have made it their mission to publish Chinese companies’ sexist hiring notices on social media and report such cases to the authorities. But the team found that local human resources bureaus would often decline to open gender discrimination cases, either denying that the hiring notices were sexist or claiming that other government offices were responsible for dealing with them.

In a society as patriarchal as China’s, gaining an even playing field for women has been an uphill battle. But there have been some victories. In February of last year, nine central government agencies jointly announced that domestic companies may not reject job applicants because of their gender, and last month China’s legislature moved to add anti-sexual harassment provisions to the current draft revision of the country’s civil code.

Rather than relying on legal channels that don’t necessarily bring desirable outcomes, many women in China have taken to social media to safeguard their rights. In some cases, groundswells of public support appear to have prompted authorities to act.

Just days after Chinese beauty blogger Yuyamika shared a video in November of her ex-boyfriend abusing her, police announced that they had detained the man for nearly three weeks — an uncommonly swift outcome for a domestic violence case.

Correction: A previous version of this story said Guo Jing successfully sued her former employer for workplace discrimination, when in fact she successfully sued a prospective employer who had refused to hire her because she was a woman.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: Tuchong)