It was 18:00 on September 2 and Miss Hu had just gotten off work. She followed her usual routine of taking the Line 5 metro from Wuyangcun towards Zhujiang New Town. As she stood in the carriage—perhaps thinking about her evening dinner or recapping the day's events—she felt a man get close to her from behind rubbing himself on her. Before she knew it, she felt something warm and moist shoot up onto her dress. It was only when she turned around to inspect what was on her dress that she realized what had actually happened. Miss Hu's immediate reaction was to scream, but the perpetrator quickly fled through the closing metro doors. After reporting the incident to the police, Miss Hu was told that this was the third such case in three months.
Do we still have your attention?
Though disgust and nausea from the above story may turn you away from this article, it's important that you read on: sexual harassment is a serious and unfortunately, very common problem on Guangzhou's metro and sadly, most of it goes unreported. And it's not only Guangzhou that suffers from this: Wuhan's recent decision to implement a women's-only waiting area on its subway system further illustrates the extent of this problem in China. The victims are nearly always women—local and foreign alike—and crimes occur both during rush hours and non-peak hours. There is no way of knowing who these sleazy, disgusting perverts (or色狼 in Chinese) will prey on next, but what you can do is inform yourself on how to stay safe and what to do should you experience sexual harassment on the metro in Guangzhou.
Thanks for your contribution, Chinese media…
It must be said though that many tips from Chinese media range from the offensive to the absurd. Echoing the berating comments of a Shanghai subway official who in June claimed that scantily clad women invite sexual harassment, some sites and fliers tell women to not dress in a certain way. Admittedly, while it's best not to ride the subway with your underwear hanging out, greater surveillance and more public campaigns – both in busy areas and schools – would be more useful than telling women how to dress. The problem is not women's clothing, but the fact that so many men consciously sexually harass women and get away with it. Now those are two big problems that need addressing, not women's fashion.
Less ridiculous tips given to people include screaming on the top of your lungs, avoiding standing close to men, stomping down on a perpetrators foot with your heels if the subway is too crowded to turn around and/or maneuver, asking fellow passengers to help out, causing a commotion, obtaining his ID and or phone number (good luck with that!), looking for metro staff on the platform or calling the police on 110. There have even been unintentionally funny diagrams aimed at teaching women how to avoid becoming a victim of sexual harassment. Check out them in this article.
A sad state of affairs
The truth of the matter is that the majority of sleazebags get away with it. Chinese have a notorious fear of being a good Samaritan—as the Yueyue case so painfully reminded us—and platform staff are not always the most attentive or helpful. When riding the metro, whether in Guangzhou or New York, be alert and weary of your surroundings and do not be afraid to make noise should you feel an unwanted hand somewhere. And if you should find yourself in the same situation as Miss Hu, make sure to go to the police station immediately to report the case and don't hesitate to call a Chinese friend to come along with you to talk to the police if you think your Chinese is not up to scratch (and don't forget your ID which you should be carrying around with you at all times anyway).
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Keywords: Sexual harassment Guangzhou metro sexual harassment China Guangzhou metro safety
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