A survey of women in three large cities in China has found that almost a third reported an increase in sexual harassment over the past three years; almost half of women between 16 and 25 reported increased incidents of harassment.   Compared to India, where an article in The Wall Street Journal notes that “aggressive sexual harassment is a fixture of daily life,” this is, presumably, considered relatively safe.    


I have long thought that in traditional and/or closed societies, efforts at "modernization," or attempts to change or break traditional cultural models — especially rapidly — often results in death-grip holds on the old ways by those who feel most threatened, which can lead to or include harassment or other violent acts, efforts to restrict birth control or abortion, disparate wages, etc.


Supporting this view, the WSJ article notes that in 2006, a University of Chicago report stated that China’s economy has been transformed rapidly and massively in the last two decades, and has seen rapid urbanization. Along with this, there has been a quick rise of Chinese women who are employed, and, the report notes, they face sexual harassment especially in service jobs.   This would seem to bear out the theory that rapid change or dislocation can cause a backlash by those most threatened — in this case, male co-workers who fear both loss of their jobs and loss of traditional authority


What can be done?  China passed anti-harassment only in 2005, which were not fully implemented until 2007, so time will tell if this legislation is effective. There must also be education, outreach and sensitivity training and social condemnation for acts of harassment.