The 2013 Chinese Sexual Abuse Cases

China Development Brief no. 58 (Summer 2013)

中文 English

Many incidents of sexual abuse against young girls were reported in China in 2013, causing widespread public concern. At the beginning of May the case of a headmaster and an official who had intercourse with elementary school girls in Wanning, Hainan sparked an outburst of indignation from the internet community. On May 27th, the AIDS and sex workers’ rights activist, Ms. Ye Haiyan, protested in front of the school . After pictures of her protest were posted on Weibo, more and more internet users followed her example to support the sexually abused girls. On the photos, you could not only see the telephone numbers of the Women’s Federation [妇联] and the police, but also creative slogans such as “headmaster, have intercourse with me.” On May 30th, following the controversial arrest of Ms. Ye, Sun Yatsen University professor Ai Shaoming protested naked, leading to even more internet attention. The frequent cases of sexual abuse against young girls have revealed the current lack of sex education in families and schools, the lack of work being done in this area by relevant government departments and public organizations, as well as the absence of sufficient legal deterrence.

In Chinese society where sex is still secretive in nature, many parents themselves have not received proper sex education. Their knowledge of sex is lacking and not only are their explanations un-informed, they are also ashamed of broaching the topic of sex when talking to their children. As people from the countryside move to the cities for work, millions of “left behind children” receive neither basic warnings to guard against sexual predators nor any education concerning sexual hygiene. Furthermore, sex education in China’s schools often does not fulfill its function, and is completely non-existent in many rural schools. In this blank field the Women’s Federation, local governments, and the Public Security Bureau are not very active and relevant civil society organizations are completely absent. Most children’s rights’ NGOs tend to focus on educational equality and nourishment. China urgently needs to develop sexual abuse education for children.

In addition, the lack of deterrence at the legal and institutional levels is also a significant reason for the frequent sexual assaults on young girls. In the photos of Prof. Ai’s naked protest, besides her breasts, one can also see a pair of scissors. She says, “These scissors represent how our system to protect children should be. They are sharp to punish the attackers. The system should contribute to create a new social culture which has no tolerance at all for rape, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse. It should also give clear information to children and make sure that girls know how to handle offenders.” Looking back at the controversies about sexual assaults on young girls, one should consider the 1997 revision of the “crime of intercourse with young girls”. Even though the goal was to crack down on sexual offences against young girls (it defined the minimum penalty for this crime to be two years higher than the penalty for rape), the maximum penalty was only 15 years imprisonment, whereas for rape it was the death penalty. Furthermore the criminal code defines rape as “a violation of a citizen’s rights to bodily integrity and therefore a civil crime,” whereas the “crime of intercourse with young girls” is categorized as a violation of public order. This means that the persecution of this crime is mainly for the protection of public order, and not for the protection of the abused. This severely infringes upon the rights of these young girls.

In addition to these objective factors, another important reason lies in the fact that in this absurd society the female body is put on the same level as power, capital, and class and pursued in the same way. This kind of judgement also sparked debate after the protests of Ms. Ye and Ms. Ai. The “Southern Window” [南风窗] commented on the abuse case stating, “For the offenders, who don’t have sufficient power, money or other resources, these sexual assaults against young girls is a logical means of revenge and psychological compensation for the weakness of having lost the competition for these resources1 .”

As Simone de Beauvoir wrote; the female gender is not innate, but rather shaped. In societies in which men possess the wealth, power, opportunities and other resources, women are just the object of male desire and men are the judges of whether a female body is seen as beautiful or ugly, valuable or cheap. Young virgins are considered the most valuable. Older female bodies that have already given birth are ‘devalued’ bodies. Bodies which have been used in the commercial sex trade are believed to have even less value. According to this logic, low grade bodies should not appear in public places. This was reflected in the words of the economist Xue Zhaofeng in his blog post concerning Ms. Ai’s protest, “Posting pictures of old womens’ naked breasts online is polluting the aesthetic sense of internet users.”

According to this classification system, sex workers are of a lower grade and the people that are protecting their rights are being attacked as well. Ms. Ye boldly moved forward and had to face anonymous insults. After spending thirteen days in prison she was still accused of corrupting public morals and seeking fame, only because she was challenging the intrinsic hierarchical order of gender. In the words of Ms. Ai, in a system that classifies female bodies, even a well known university professor such as herself is only seen as an “old and feeble” woman. That showing her body, which has been shaped by the births of her three children, in public would challenge the male elite is nothing new; that this would cause an attack by the traditional values advocates is no surprise at all.

Meanwhile, within this classification system, the bodies of young, naive elementary school girls are seen as ‘rare goods’. This is supported by many traditional concepts such as the pursuit of virgins and the superstitious belief in “picking Yin to complete Yang”. Therefore no matter whether they are powerful officials and bosses or low class men squeezed by the sex ratio, abusers of young girls and rapists can see their as an expression of their absolute power.

The rape of young girls cannot therefore be attributed solely to the education and legal systems and a loss of moral and ethical control, but also to other interconnected factors such as gender, class, wealth, power and culture. Innocent young girls have thus become the final victims of the intertwined contradictions in gender and society. In order to defend against sex crimes and to protect minors, the government and NGOs have to increase their efforts in school sex education, family education and the support of “left behind children”. Furthermore they have to make efforts to change the intersection of gender and power. To challenge these authorities that consider themselves omnipotent depends primarily on the future actions of grass roots activists.


  1. ‘Who will protect weak young girls? ‘ http://focus.news.163.com/12/1112/10/8G3SVU2O00011SM9.html 

性侵幼女背后

近段时间以来,各地性侵幼女事件频发,引起公众广泛关注,5月初海南万宁校长、官员带小学女生“开房”案尤令网友义愤填膺。5月27日,艾滋病与性工作者权益维护人士叶海燕在当事学校前举牌抗议,照片上传微博后网友纷纷效仿,声援被性侵幼女。这些照片中留存的妇联、警方电话,彰显出行为艺术者的匠心与诉求,“校长,开房找我”一时成为流行词语。当月30日,叶海燕因争议案件被拘后,中山大学教授艾晓明脱衣抗议,更引发互联网中的关注与争论。

性侵幼女案件频频发生,首先揭示现今家庭、学校性教育的缺失,并凸显出相关政府部门、社会组织工作的缺位以及法律的威慑不足。

在性依然遮遮掩掩、难登大雅之堂的中国社会,许多家长自身性教育缺失、性知识不足,不但一知半解,而且往往羞于对孩子启齿性话题。在城乡移民打工大潮之下,数千万留守儿童更无从由父母处得知基本的防范性侵犯乃至基本的性健康知识。而中国的学校性教育,往往形同虚设,很多乡村学校甚至从未开设。对此空白领域,妇联、少工委、基层政府与公安机关均少有关注,相关社会组织更十分缺乏,许多关注儿童权利增长的NGO往往将重点放在儿童的教育公平、营养状况之上,为儿童开展防范性侵犯教育亟待补课。

此外,法律和制度层面的威慑不足也是性侵幼女频发的重要原因。艾晓明教授的裸身抗议照片中除了乳房,还有一把剪刀,她说:“这把剪刀,应该是我们保护儿童的制度;它锋利尖锐,严惩来犯者。它也应该是我们要创造的新的社会文化,对强奸、性骚扰、性侵犯,决不容忍。它应该是我们明确告知儿童的信息,让每个女孩知道,怎么对待施暴者。① ”反观近年来性侵幼女案中的争议,1997年《刑法》修订时出台的“嫖宿幼女罪”虽然称其本意为加大对性侵幼女者的打击——在最低量刑上比强奸罪最低量刑高了两年,但在字义上却有为强奸者开脱之嫌,并在最高量刑上少了威慑之意——嫖宿幼女罪和强奸罪的最高量刑分别是十五年和死刑。此外,在《刑法》中,“强奸罪”设在“侵犯公民人身权利、民主权利罪”一类,“嫖宿幼女罪”则属“妨害社会管理秩序罪”,表明这一罪名的设立所要保护的首要法益是“社会管理秩序”,而非为了保护幼女的人身权利、严厉打击侵犯幼女的行为。

除了以上客观因素之外,促使性侵幼女者伸出魔爪的深层次原因,还有在这个荒诞社会中,将女性的身体与权力、资本、阶层相结合之后的等级化评判与追求。同时,这种评判与追求还引发了叶海燕和艾晓明抗议之后的争议。《南风窗》曾对性侵幼女事件评论道:“强者对幼女的性侵,是其获取权力、金钱等稀缺资源后的逻辑延伸;弱者在权力、金钱的竞争失败后对幼女的性侵则是一种报复和心理补偿。”①

正如波伏娃所说,女性不是天生的,而是塑造而成的。在男性占有财富、权力、机会等资源全面占优的社会中,女性是男性欲望的对象,身体应男性的要求而被判定为美与丑,值钱或者廉价。青春的、保持处女的是最优等的女性身体;生育过的、老年的,则是贬值的身体;进行商业性交易的身体更是最劣等的身体。贬值的、劣等的身体往往不能出现在公共话语之中,更不要说为之维权,一旦见了光,就像经济学者薛兆丰在微博抨击艾晓明裸身抗议时用的词语一样——“花甲女人袒胸露乳上传裸照,污染了网友的视觉”。

在女性身体等级化的逻辑中,性工作者、“妓女”是低贱的,为“妓女”维权同样要受到抨击。尽管叶海燕挺身而出,面临不明身份者的谩骂与攻击,在铁窗中度过十三个日夜,却依然被许多人斥责为伤风败俗、沽名钓誉,因为她挑战了固有的性等级秩序。即便是大学教授、知名学者艾晓明,用她的话说,在女性的身体等级化体系中,她只是一个“年老色衰”女,她将生育过的身体、做过母亲的身体赤裸裸地呈现在公众之前,挑战着部分精英男性已经习以为常的视觉体验,引发卫道者的攻击,自然不足为奇。

而在这种女性身体等级体系之中,幼小的、青春的、不谙世事的小学女生的身体成为最稀缺的资源,再辅以中国封建文化中追求处女情结、迷信“采阴补阳”的种种糟粕,不管是权势、金钱在握的官员和老板,还是在“男高女低”的择偶市场中被挤压的底层男性,一旦侵犯了幼女,强奸犯便以为可彰显自己拥有了无上权力。

因此,性侵幼女事件背后,不仅是教育与法律制度、道德与伦理约束的丧失,还有性别、阶层、财富、权力、文化等众多因素交叉影响,无辜的幼女由此成为性别与多重社会矛盾交织之下的最终牺牲品。防范性侵事件、保护幼女成长,有赖于政府和NGO在学校教育、家庭教育、留守儿童服务上的快速补课,也不可缺少改变性别与权力交织的等级序列的努力,打击权力者自以为睥睨一切的嚣张气焰,更有赖于草根行动者的奋勇前进。

 

谁来庇护孱弱的幼女?[EB/OL].http://focus.news.163.com/12/1112/10/8G3SVU2O00011SM9.html.

Deputy Editor, China Development Brief

Translated by Andreas Dittrich

Reviewed by Kristin Clouser

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