About half of young women in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou who participated in a survey reported that they have noticed a rise in unwanted sexual harassment over the past three years.
"There is at least one in 10 young women admitting to having been sexually harassed in the past three years. The rate has reached a serious level that the government cannot ignore this problem any more," Liu Rongxin, the project manager of the survey, told the Global Times Tuesday.
For the survey, which was released on Monday, the Canton Public Opinion Research Center in Guangzhou interviewed about 1,500 women 16 years old and older, and found that 37 percent of the women said there has been an increase in the frequency of sexual harassment over the past three years.
For women younger than 25, 48 percent said the rate of sexual harassment is increasing. Some 13 percent admitted that they had been victims of sexual harassments themselves.
The survey found that 65 percent of women victims said their harassers physically touched them. Some 48 percent of the victims said the touching was severe.
The other 35 percent reported they were sexually harassed with words, text messages and phone calls.
Liu said that offenders usually receive minor punishment or were left unpunished, because it is difficult for victims to provide evidence.
"We have seen a case where a man harassed a woman on a public transit system. He took pictures of the woman secretly, and when he was exposed and brought to the police, all the pictures he took had been already deleted," Liu said.
Liu called on the government to consider severe punishment to better protect women from sexual harassment. He said that simply separating women from men on public trains won't solve the problem.
A separate organization reported a rise in sexual assaults last year on girls younger than 14 years old.
The Guangdong Province Women's Federation said there were more than 90 cases of young girls who were sexually assaulted in 2012, up from about 80 cases in 2011.
"Many of those girls suffered repeated sexual molestation over a long period," Wang Biaochen, a lawyer with the women's right protection department under the federation, told the Global Times.
Wang said that many of the girls were from migrant families and receive less attention from their parents compared to children from urban families.
"The offenders are usually neighbors, and even school teachers. Many of the young girls are severely violated. They are too little to protect themselves, or even to be aware that it is a crime," she said.
Wang said that the federation has suggested the education department provide more sex education to young girls, and to arrange training for teachers from primary schools and kindergartens.
Wang said that there is barely any sex education for girls under 14 years old in Guangdong Province, unlike in Taiwan, where even pupils from lower grades receive basic knowledge of how to protect themselves from sexual molestation.