China's top education authority has released a draft regulation to protect minors from sexual harassment and bullying in school. The regulation also bans relationships between teachers and students, and is open for public comments until April 23.
The new regulation is part of detailed measures under the newly revised Minor Protection Law that will take effect on June 1.
The draft lists five specific kinds of behavior that would constitute sexual harassment toward minors by teachers. According to the draft, the behavior includes "affection between teachers and students, verbal and physical sexual suggestion, and showing obscene materials to students." Schools are asked to take measures to avoid such situations.
In addition to sexual harassment, bullying is also listed in the draft. The regulation takes both verbal and physical behavior into consideration, including mocking and slandering, as well as damage to other people's property. Isolating other classmates should also be stopped.
Chinese netizens tend to show their full support for protection of minors. One netizen expressed support in a post on Sina Weibo, saying that "students are supposed to learn and strive at school, instead of being bullied by others."
In February, the Ministry of Education released a series of regulations to address school bullying. During the two sessions in 2021, calls to include sex education in Chinese primary and secondary schools also gained great support among netizens.
This new draft regulation on protection of minors comes after a revision of China's Minor Protection Law, which was passed in October 2020 and will be implemented on June 1.
The newly revised law stresses the protection of minors and requires schools to report any criminal behavior that involves sexual harassment or sexual assault toward minors, and there should be "no concealment."
Zhu Xingguang, a lecturer at the China University of Political Science and Law told the Paper that sex education is currently insufficient. There may also be problems with China's age of consent, which is 14. "It is possible for criminals to take advantage of it and force minors over 14 to 'consent,'" Zhu Lieyu, a lawyer in Guangdong, was quoted as saying in media reports.
Zhang Lining, a researcher at Tsinghua University, also told the Global Times previously that "measures should be taken to protect minors from sexual harassment both by the law and by the schools themselves. And we should pay full and equal attention to those cases, whether involving an under 14-year-old child or an older one."
According to data from the China Foundation of Culture and Art for Children in 2020, China has seen a rise in the number of cases of sexual assault against children aged from 7 to 15, and there were 71 cases of sexual assault by teachers or other staff members.