Rape is one of the most common crimes in China. It is not often reported, and the rape of girls under the age of 14 is occurring with increasing frequency. Further, under the laws of China, rape victims are not able to make a claim for mental suffering resulting from rape.
A loophole in the law has caused many perpetrators to claim that they are guilty of prostitution with an under-age girl rather than rape in order to avoid capital punishment. This has caused controversy in China, and people have started advocating for the crime of prostitution of under-age girls to be abolished.
“Psychological damage compensation for the rape victims and underage sex issues are nationwide social problems related to violence against women. It belongs to the jurisdiction of criminal law and must be regulated through legislation on a national level. We firmly believe that there is enough space for revision in the Criminal law in terms of underage sex crimes,” said Guo Jianmei, Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling and Service Center.
Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling and Service Center works to promote gender equality in China through legal aid and counseling for disadvantaged women. They often work with rape victims to help them understand their legal rights and guide them through the criminal justice system. Through TrustLaw, the Center was connected with Vinson & Elkins, McCarthy Tétrault, Drew & Napier, and other firms to conduct cross-border research on laws and regulations on psychological damage compensation for rape victims and underage prostitutes.
The Center used the findings to prepare and present a proposal on reforming China's rape law to the National People’s Congress and Supreme People’s Court in 2013.
In August 2015, the National People's Congress approved the proposal to reclassify the crime of 'sex with underage prostitutes' into rape. The previous maximum penalty for the crime was 15 years behind bars. With the new classification, the crime could mean life in prison, or in some cases, death. Advocates celebrated the decision as a rare example of how years of advocacy can lead to legal reform.
Read the report in Chinese here.