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More than three quarters of female Chinese journalists sexually harassed, report finds

China’s media industry must do more to combat sexual harassment, according to a report that found that more than three-quarters of female journalists surveyed had been subjected to unwanted advances in the course of their work.

The #MeToo campaign in China. Photo: Handout The #MeToo campaign in China. Photo: Handout

The online survey, A Report on Workplace Sexual Harassment of Chinese Female Journalists, comes in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which saw the Hollywood producer accused of multiple sexual assaults, and spawned the global #MeToo movement.

Of the 83.7% of respondents who said they had been sexually harassed, more than half remained silent after the harassment, and only 3.2% reported their experience to their company’s HR department. Even fewer – just 0.6% – reported the harassment to police. Some reported suffering from mental distress and depression as a result of harassment, with a small number admitting suicidal tendencies.

The survey, by the Guangzhou Gender and Sexual Education Center, also found:

  • Almost half of the 83.7% subjected to sexual harassment had encountered it 2-4 times
  • 18.2% suffered harassment more than 5 times
  • Nine out of 10 of the perpetrators were male; among them 40.9% of offenders were the victims’ authoritative leaders; 30% were colleagues; and 37% were strangers
  • 43.8% of harassment occurred in public spaces including offices, conference rooms, and toilets
  • 37.7% occurred in private places such as personal offices, family rooms and hotels
  • 31.6% of respondents had received emails, calls, sexual jokes and obscene pictures and videos

Launching the report at the FCC on March 7, Wei Tingting, Executive Director of the centre; and reporter Sophina Huang Xueqin; urged Chinese media companies to introduce measures to stamp out harassment in the workplace.

Wei Tingting, Executive Director of Guangzhou Gender and Sexual Education Center, speaks at the FCC. Photo: FCC Wei Tingting, Executive Director of Guangzhou Gender and Sexual Education Center, speaks at the FCC. Photo: FCC

“Newsrooms and media companies should take the lead in establishing workplace anti-sexual harassment mechanisms which include prevention and education, investigation after the complaint, confidential counselling, punishment of the sexual offender, set up related departments, and introduce workplace anti-sexual harassment regulations that should be issued to all staff members,” said Wei Tingting.

Since the Weinstein scandal broke, allegations of sexual harassment have spread to almost every profession. In the media, The Washington Post, CBS News, NPR and NBC are just a handful of companies now dealing with sexual harassment claims. According to research published last November from the Center for American Progress, sexual harassment occurs across all industries.

“Sexual harassment is a persistent problem in the workplace and one that affects people across industries and at every level,” the report said.

Chart by Center for American Progress Chart by Center for American Progress

Female Chinese journalists were surveyed over a period of a month with 416 valid samples being taken from 1,762 responses from 15 provinces in China, including Guangdong, Beijing, Shanghai, Hubei, Zhejiang, Shandong and Sichuan.

For 61.4% of the victims surveyed, sexual harassment caused a decline in their self-esteem and confidence. Among the 176 victims who encountered sexual harassment 2-4 times, 44 of them said the encounters brought severe impact on their personal relationships and social lives, 22 of them resigned or changed their jobs, 29 of the victims suffer from mental distress and depression, and 10 of them admitted self-harm and suicidal tendencies.

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