The sexual assault of men is now a criminal offense in China following an amendment to the Criminal Law that took effect on Sunday. Surprisingly, before this male rape was not a crime.
The amendment was adopted in August and amended the word “women” to “other,” thus guaranteeing that indecent assault on either men or women carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison, according to Xinhua.
Before this important wording change, it was difficult to file charges involving male sexual assault.
In just one example, a security guard sexually abused his male colleague in the employee dormitory. However, instead of being charged with sexual assault, the man was convicted of intentional injury and sentenced to just 12 months in prison.
The amendment will also provide more protection for underage boys, giving equal treatment to boys and girls below the age of 18 years old. Before, rapists of boys could only be charged with child molestation, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.
According to research jointly carried out by the University of Hong Kong and UBS Optimus Foundation, the percentage of boys in China who suffer sexual molestation is 2.7% higher than the percentage for girls.
[UPDATE: 2:00 AM] China Law Translate has written a post helping to clarify the wording in the new amendment and finds that it doesn’t change nearly as much as Xinhua says it does. Here is what they have to say:
The crime of rape, found in article 236 of the revised Chinese Criminal Law only applies to female victims and was in no way amended by the revisions. The lesser crime of forcible indecency (article 237), which can include sexual assaults and violations, was modified to be gender neutral. This may seem like semantics, but the crime of rape is punishable by death, while the indecency charge is usually punishable by only up to five years jail time.
The main text of the recent new items seem more careful than their headlines, and use the phrase ‘sexual assault’, but they are critically wrong on the question of sentencing. These articles all report that the indecency offense carries ‘minimum sentence of five years in prison’. Unfortunately, this is just wrong. The revised text actually read:
“以暴力、胁迫或者其他方法强制猥亵他人或者侮辱妇女的，处五年以下有期徒刑或者拘役。” Those using violence, coercion or other methods to act indecently against others or insult women are sentenced to imprisonment of up to five years or short-term detention.
The minimum sentence is actual 拘役 or short-term detention lasting between 1-6 months. Additional revisions do make it possible for higher punishments of 5 years and up where the circumstances were ‘heinous’, while this was previously only possible where the crime was committed in public or by a group .
So, male rape remains a crime in China. One step at a time?