Women's Law Amendment Takes Effect, Outlaws Sexual Harassment and Domestic Violence

December 5, 2005

The National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee passed an amendment on August 28 to the Law on the Protection of the Interests and Rights of Women (LPIRW); the new provisions became effective on December 1. The amendment outlaws sexual harassment and domestic violence, promotes equal rights for women, and helps victims of trafficking. (Article numbers below refer to the text of the law as amended.)

Articles 40 and 46 outlaw sexual harassment and domestic violence, respectively, despite failing to define either term. Article 58 gives victims of sexual harassment and domestic violence the right to seek punishment under administrative punishment regulations and also to bring a civil suit against harassers for damages. Media reports have chronicled the efforts in 2005 of lawyers and officials of the All China Women's Federation (ACWF) to help victims of sexual harassment and domestic violence. In November, lawyers at the Beijing University Women's Legal Aid Center helped a woman settle a suit against a man who sexually harassed her. In March 2005, the ACWF set up nation-wide hotlines to give counseling and legal aid to women with abusive husbands, according to a November 9 Xinhua article.

The law as amended includes provisions that, if implemented, would give women equality with men under the law and a greater voice in government. Article 2 makes the equality of men and women a "fundamental national policy," placing gender equality on the national agenda at the same level as population planning and conservation of national resources. Article 11 requires that women make up a greater proportion than at present of representatives to the NPC, as well as local people’s congresses. Article 27 requires employers to treat women and men the same with respect to retirement. A woman in Henan currently is suing her employer for forcing her to retire under a 1978 regulation that requires women to retire five years earlier than men.

Article 39 expands the number of organizations responsible for preventing trafficking in women and rehabilitating victims, including local women's federations and local public security, labor, social security, and health departments. This shift is consonant with calls from international organizations, such as those documented in an International Labor Organization report, for local-level social organizations and law enforcement agencies to cooperate in anti-trafficking work.

For more information on implications of the amended law see the 2005 CECC Annual Report, section III(f), Status of Women.