Cases of child sexual abuse are on the rise in China—and a questionable legislation could be the reason for it. The law allows for sexual abuse of minors not to be called rape, but instead “engaging in sexual activity with an underage prostitute.”
A recent study by the Hubei-based Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch found 425 reported cases of child sexual abuse in China between April 2014 and April 2015.
Among the reported cases, 13 of them involved boys. School molestation and sexual abuse cases by principals and school directors accounted for 86 cases, and the victims very often contracted sexually transmitted diseases and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. Of the 67 victims of neighbor or relative abuse, one was a 6-month old baby girl and 22 of them involved adolescents.
According to the report, the sexual abuse cases occurred due to absent parents or guardians, inability of victims to protect themselves owing to a lack of proper sexual education, and the general lack of a national sexual education programme.
The Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch numbers represents a sharp rise from the 192 cases between May 2013 and May 2014 reported last year by state fundraising group China Social Assistance Foundation.
The actual number of sexual abuse cases is likely to be much higher as there are numerous instances of unreported crimes owing to corruption in the courts.
The 13-year-old daughter of Ren Yabo, a staff member at the petitions office of the Central Organization Department in Beijing, was repeatedly raped by five gangs in 2003, according to New York-based broadcaster New Tang Dynasty Television. Ren and his daughter never found justice—local triads bribed the prosecution organs and were let off, while Ren was detained and beaten multiple times when seeking justice for his daughter.
Late last year, Hong Kong media reported that a 4-year-old girl from Gansu Province was raped by a temporary worker at her parents home. When the girl’s parents tried to press charges, they were, just like Ren Yabo, detained and beaten multiple times.
And when cases of child sexual abuse do make the courts, the victims aren’t well protected by the law.
Recently, Weinan City Intermediate People’s Court in Shaanxi Province, northwest China, sentenced a former member of Weinan City’s National People’s Congress, Zhang Zhihong, to eight years imprisonment on the charge of “engaging in sexual activity with an underage prostitute.” On May 25, 2013, the 52-year old Zhang, who owns an auto company and has fixed assets of nearly 100 million yuan (about 16 million), had sex with a 13-year-old girl in a hotel room.
The court’s sentencing set the Chinese Internet abuzz, with many netizens pointing out that Zhang had clearly raped the girl and the law “engaging in sexual activity with an underage prostitute” was clearly a legal loophole to protect officials.
Guangdong lawyer Wang Quanping told NTD Television, “It is a rape as long as the sexual activity is conducted with underage girls, and the sentence should have been 10 years imprisonment at the minimum. The criminal being an NPC representative should be even more severely punished, even up to the maximum of 15 years of imprisonment. But the court was obviously being partial and expressed favoritism towards Zhang, judging from the characterization and the sentence of the crime.”
The crime of “engaging in sexual activity with an underage prostitute” was written into China’s criminal law books in 1997, and carries a maximum sentence of 17 years in prison. The crime of rape, on the other hand, warrants a minimum punishment of 10 year in prison, and at maximum sentencing of life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Because of the special law, child sexual abuse, a “heinous crime which violates ethics and morality can often escape justice… in our country,” said Beijing lawyer Chen Jiangang to NTD.
Another Beijing lawyer, Wang Yu, notes that the Chinese regime has no legislation and established law enforcement procedures to protect children from sexual abuse.
“The lack of supervision in law enforcement has seen many child molesters escape their due punishment with the so-called ‘engaging in sexual activity with an underage prostitute.’ This law even demonizes the victims.”
While there are many calls to abolish the law of “engaging in sexual activity with an underage prostitute”—the Supreme People’s Court even agreed to its removal in July 2013—the law still remains on the books today.