Mixed Reactions to China’s First Workplace Sexual Harassment Guidelines for Women

In China, reference texts provide direction and interpretation of laws and regulations, and may be employed as evidence in legal proceedings


Employers in China have received comprehensive instructions on how to eliminate sexual harassment against women in their workplaces. In a joint directive released on International Women’s Day by the Supreme People’s Court, guidance was issued as a point of reference for employers who are establishing a system or creating employment contracts.
It is the first time China has issued such a precise set of instructions aimed at preventing sexual harassment of women in the workplace. In China, reference texts are not legally binding documents and do not hold the same legal weight as laws or regulations. However, they can provide direction and interpretation of laws and regulations, and may be employed as evidence in legal proceedings.

According to experts, the release of this guidance is a positive step, but there are worries about how effectively it will be put into action. ‘This is a significant development,’ remarked Yao Junchang, a lawyer who focuses on labour and employment law at Beijing Weiheng Law Firm, reported South China Morning Post. He also explained that the new guidance provides a more comprehensive explanation of existing legal provisions related to sexual harassment and strengthens safeguards for women.

Interestingly, China recently updated its Civil Code and Women’s Protection Law, which also included provisions related to sexual harassment. However, none has been as precise as the new guidance, as reported by South China Morning Post.

The guidance has been called a ‘significant step towards development,’ however, it also has a drawback. As of now, did not provide specific instructions on how to train victims to gather and preserve evidence. It only stated that the victim should record every detail accurately and preserve all evidence. Additionally, collecting evidence and retaining proof in cases of workplace sexual harassment is often challenging due to the unpredictable and covert nature of incidents.

Zhou Xiaoxuan, a prominent figure in China’s #MeToo movement, also commented that the new guidelines fail to address the fundamental issue of power imbalance between superiors and subordinates in both companies and society at large. She emphasised that the root cause of sexual harassment is the various forms of unequal power that exist and that changing the power structure is necessary to combat it.

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