In honor of International Women’s Day and as evidence that the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) is doing its part, the SPC released statistics related to crimes against women and children. This brief blogpost gives some of the highlights.
Trafficking of women and children
Trafficking of women and children is an ongoing problem in China, and it is likely that a significant number of cases do not find their way to the courts. The statistics show a reduction in cases involving the trafficking of women and children–last year, 853 cases were resolved, in comparison to 1919 in 2010, involving 3631 persons in 2010 and 1362 in 2015.
As in many other places in the world, women are often reluctant to bring charges of rape in China, particularly when it involves men more powerful than themselves. (Rape of men is still not a crime, according to this analysis by Jeremy Daum). It is unknown how many of the rape cases were heard in the military courts. This analysis of cases from the SPC’s case database evidences that that the military courts have heard some. Trends in the last three years in the number of rape cases heard in courts (cases concluded and persons sentenced):
Indecent assault cases
The number of convictions in indecent assault cases (the crime of using violence, coercion or other methods to act indecently against others or insult women) is on the rise. This report by a local court suggest that those charges are sometimes used when rape cannot be proved.
Child molestation cases
Convictions in child molestation cases are on the rise, or at least more make it into the court system.
The SPC commented that the situation involving crimes against women’s and children’s rights remains grim:
- No reduction in the number of crimes involving the sale of biological children by parents;
- High number of cases of sexual abuse of minors, which has not gone down;
- Many serious incidents of school violence;
- Children left behind in rural areas are often abandoned and subject to domestic violence;
- Specific rules are needed to implement the Domestic Violence Law and relevant sections of the Criminal Law Amendment (9);
- Better mechanisms are needed to protect the rights of children.
Paul Schmidt, a follower of this blog, who is Counsel with Jun He Law Offices in Beijing and a former Colorado State Prosecutor, had the following comment:
This is a heart rendering issue, but the statistics provided continue to tell, what I believe, is a very interesting story about criminal prosecutions in the PRC. The basic story is this: criminal prosecutions in the PRC are rare.
Some very rough math shows what I mean. In 2014, the New York Police Department investigated 1,352 instances of rape. (See, http://www.nyc.gov) In 2014, the population of NYC was 8,500,000. In short, this works out to very roughly 1 rape investigation per every 5,000 people.
In China in 2014, the courts there handled 23,158 rape cases. China’s population was 1,367,000,000. In short, this works out to very roughly 1 rape case per every 50,000 people.
What’s going on? Is NYC 10 times more violent than the PRC? Are people in China 10 times more reluctant to report rape than in NYC? Even if we assume that New Yorkers are twice as violent and the Chinese are twice as reluctant (neither of which I actually believe to be true), this still leaves a huge gap.
The above pattern repeats itself regardless of the crime examined. Chinese crime statistics appear to be not just lower when compared to other countries – but profoundly lower. Additionally, I have seen little to indicate that such statistics are being actively manipulated (unlike, say, economic statistics). I don’t believe PRC courts are actively under reporting their cases – civil or criminal.
What mainly accounts for the gap, I believe, is that only a certain percentage of crime in the PRC is handled by the formal criminal system. A lot of crime is dealt with through administrative means or informal “mediations” adjudicated by the police between victims and perpetrators.
A retired Chinese lawyer pointed to the availability of commercial sex [however this is also available in New York] as a reason for the small number of rape cases. He also mentioned settlements between victims and perpetrators, mediated by the family or lawyer for the perpetrator and the victim and her family. He suggested that the lawyer for the perpetrator will seek to convince the victim and her family that she is best off with a monetary settlement, conditioned on the victim withdrawing charges.
There is also likely a link to the performance indicators of the police and prosecutors. Like judges, they have been evaluated based on a number of quantitative indicators, including the number of arrests and number of prosecutions. Settlement of cases removes the risk of a case going wrong from the police and prosecutors. It may be for a combination of these reasons that the number of rape cases reaching the courts, and rape convictions in China is relatively low.
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