Reality of male rape needs legal recognition

By Xie Caifeng Source:Global Times Published: 2013-11-5 21:18:02

Recent guidelines on child protection strengthen the punishments for sexual offences against underage girls. In particular, they mandate that sex with girls under 12 years old is an offense of absolute liability, meaning that the perpetuator's knowledge of the girl's underage status has no bearing on the charge. But the guidelines regrettably don't offer equal protection to underage boys.

At present, molestation of both sexes is treated equally. But there is no separate charge of "rape" to cover more serious sexual assaults on boys, whereas there is for girls.

The rapists of boys, therefore, can only be charged with child molestation, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.

In practice, law enforcement does not take crimes against boys seriously enough. Sexual abuse of girls is much more likely to trigger a police investigation, unless the boys suffer serious physical injury.

The major reason why boys do not receive equal protection lies with the traditional Chinese concepts that the "right" of virginity is exclusive to women, and men's sexual rights are not valuable enough to be protected by law. As a result, only women could be the victim of sexual offences.

This is mirrored in China's current Criminal Law, in which the crime of rape refers only to having sexual intercourse with women without consent. In other words, the law only admits and protects women's right to sexual autonomy, but does not include men's.

Though news coverage mainly reported cases of sexual abuse against women, statistics both at home and abroad have shown that boys and girls are vulnerable to sexual offences.

According to research jointly carried out by the University of Hong Kong and UBS Optimus Foundation, the percentage of boys who suffer sexual offences is 2.7 percent higher than girls.

A monitoring report delivered by the Guangdong provincial center for disease control and prevention in 2013 shows that 2 percent to 3 percent of boys had been raped, as opposed to only 1 percent of girls. 

Sexual abuse causes severe physical and mental harm to boys. Research shows that many sexually abused boys have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, with syndromes such as insomnia and nightmares.

These male victims are likely to suffer feelings of sexual trauma or inadequacy, want revenge against society, and even perpetuate cycles of abuse.

Many countries in the world have extended the crime of "rape" to cover men.

For example, in Germany, the 1975 criminal code stipulated that only women could be the victim of rape, but the 1998 criminal code revised this.

Laws in other countries such as Italy, Russia and Japan have admitted that men can be raped and that their sexual rights deserve to be equally protected.

Protection for underage boys from sexual harm is quite unsatisfactory since such offences are discreet, hard to discover and prove, as well as due to loopholes in legislation.

In September of this year, 27 NGOs jointly submitted a piece of advisory legislation to the Standing Committee of Guangzhou Municipal People's Congress, calling for the law to give equal protection to boys below 18 years old in cases of sexual offences.

Some criminal court judges have also expressed their concern at the low level of protection for boys.

In light of rampant sexual offences against underage boys, many people in China have realized such crimes are intolerable and must be punished severely by law.

Therefore, to protect boys from sexual abuse, the government should amend the laws and afford equal protection to both sexes.

Xie Caifeng, a staff member with Shunyi District People's Court, Beijing

Posted in: Letters

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