an essay by anonymous


In today’s China, people in metropolises live according to the rules of modern society, and many traditional roles have been abandoned by urban people. But like many ancient civilizations in the world, people living in remote villages still follow ancient thinking patterns. The autonomy of the smallest administrative unit, the village, is firmly tied to the relationship between people. In this relationship, reputation has become the most important thing for people living there. And this pursuit of a good reputation sometimes seems ridiculous and sad in front of modern civilization.


Sexual violence involving women, especially underage girls, is undoubtedly the saddest case an obstetrician may encounter.  An obstetrician from a big city in China always encounters such cases in the annual free clinics in the countryside. However, because the victims and their families are trapped by traditional thoughts of the family reputation, there is nothing the doctors can do other than providing safe abortion surgery for the girls.


One case of last year, 2020, is typical. The girl's grandmother and aunt brought the girl with a big belly to see the doctor, and expressed doubts about the girl's symptoms. The doctor quickly determined that the girl was pregnant, and her age was only fourteen. Her family was shocked by the result. Under the counselling of the doctor, the girl said that since she was twelve years old, her stepfather had sexually assaulted her on the night of her mother's night shift and threatened her not to speak out. Because the girl lacked relevant education, she didn't understand what it meant at first, but instinctively thought that this matter was not good and was ashamed to tell. According to Chinese law, doctors are obliged to report to the police for the sexual assault of minors. However, the girl’s family stopped it, believing that the spread of this incident would damage the reputation of the girl and the whole family. Despite the family’s objection, the doctor insisted on calling the police. After communicating with the victim’s family members, the local police decided to let them deal with it in private. The police explained to the doctor that rural areas are different from cities, and people there have their own way of dealing with problems. Moreover, even if the rapist is arrested, the girl will receive no compensation, and her reputation will be ruined.


In this environment, the remedy is futile, and the medical or legal assistance provided after the event cannot really change this situation. The social status of women in underdeveloped areas is low and being sexually assaulted is still considered as a female sin. This happens even as legal education makes people realize that sexual assault is a serious crime. As the perpetrator, men believe that the victimized women are trapped by traditional thoughts and dare not to turn to the police and lawyers. Even if the broader social environment has improved, the cover-up by a small group of people around the victims is enough to prevent them from taking legal measures to protect themselves. Accordingly, in remote areas, the deterrent effect of the law against sexual violence crimes has become very weak as a result.