China: Hundreds Who Said #MeToo Are Now Being Sued By Their Harassers

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In China, #MeToo accusers are being sued with defamation charges by the accused men. Victims are now forced to compensate by their harassers even if guilty.

Written By Tanima Ray | Mumbai | Updated On:

At least six Chinese men publicly accused of sexual assault or harassment have sued their accusers for defamation. According to the Beijing Yuanzhong Gender Development Center, an advocacy group, of the total 34 lawsuits filed in China between 2010 and 2017 related to sexual harassment in the workplace, 19 were filed by the accused and more than half were filed by accused harassers against their employers, citing unfair dismissal or harm to their reputations. The prosection was forced to ask one of the victims to compensate her harasser for damaging his eardrum after she slapped him. Whereas women who said they had been harassed filed only two of the lawsuits.

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Accusers under defamation charges in China

The #MeToo movement spread rampantly in the United States, France, India and many other countries which led to many strong revelations and conclusions that the victims were actually abused and they could not speak up earlier. Yet many men turned against the accusers successfully arguing that they were defamed by their accusers or by the media. Of them, the most famous example is Geoffrey Rush, the Australian actor, who in April won at least $608,000 from a newspaper in Australia. Yet China represents an extreme example of using courts to suppress accusations claim #Metoo activists. This has increased the terror in women's minds about going public in a highly patriarchal society that often shames them for speaking out, the activists say.

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The problem lies with the fact that the Governments have enacted laws banning sexual harassment but do not define the term and even the enforcement is poor, cite analysts. At the same time, defamation laws are stacked in favour of plaintiffs, with a greater burden of proof falling on the victim. Once a woman fails, she is presumed to be subjectively at fault. Li Ying, a lawyer and the director of the Yuanzhong Gender Development Center told the media that victims are often pressured to stay silent. The entire society is biased and stigmatizes victims of sexual harassment, she added.

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China's taboo for #MeToo

Yet the #MeToo movement has changed China by inspiring dozens of women to demand investigations into bosses, teachers and co-workers. The uprise led the government to update its civil code to increase obligations on Chinese employers to prevent sexual harassment in April. On the other hand, the country suppresses #MeToo discussions online because it fears social movements it does not control. According to WeChatscope, a research project at the University of Hong Kong, online allegations of sexual misconduct were one of the most heavily censored topics on the messaging platform WeChat in 2018. The Chinese Internet banned hashtags #MeToo and #Woyeshi.

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