Sexual Harassment of Female Workers in China's Manufacturing Industry is Rampant

A Chinese labor group has conducted a study of 134 women revealing just how much sexual harassment female workers in China face on the job. Guangzhou, the hub of China's manufacturing industry, is where most of China's garment, textile, shoe, and accessory factories are located. Women are frequently far less represented than men in positions of management, but far more represented on the factory line.

The study, conducted by Sunflower Women Workers Center and released in English by China Labour Bulletin, reveals the horrifying amount of abuse that female factory workers face on a daily basis. 70 percent have experienced some form of catcalling or inappropriate joking. 66 percent reported inappropriate comments about their bodies or appearances. 55 perfect reported explicit staring at sexual areas of the body, such as breasts and hips; 32 percent reported touching; 30 percent have been shown sexual images. And the harassment isn't just taking place on the factory floor, either; one-fourth of respondents reported receiving obscene phone calls or messages.

Technically, Chinese law protects these women, prohibiting harassment and specifying the right of the victims to seek help from a women's organization, but of the workers surveyed attempted to deal with the harassment by themselves, which often involved confiding in a coworker or, in 15 percent of the cases, quitting the job. 43 percent of the women simply suffered the abuse in silence. Not a single one of the women surveyed turned to a trade union or women's organization for help.

Needless to say, the workers felt powerless, frightened, and alone. The quotes in the study are especially heartbreaking. "These sick people are scumbags and psychopaths," says one woman, while another says, "I’m so scared. I cannot sleep well and I keep having nightmares. I just want to run away."

The study was published in Chinese on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.