When social worker Xiang Yang sued her boss over sexual harassment in 2018, she was not expecting to make history. When the court ruled in her favor two years later, her case became China’s first successful sexual harassment lawsuit.
Finally, last Thursday, she received the news that her boss’ appeal had been dismissed; her two-year nightmare of court cases and public scrutiny was finally over.
In 2018, Xiang Yang posted an open letter to Weibo under the pseudonym “Liu Li” detailing her sexual harassment experience with Liu Meng. After facing significant public discussion (Liu Meng was a respected leader in the field of social work) and inspiring an unprecedented string of women coming forward with #MeToo cases that year, she decided to file a civil lawsuit.
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Later that year in December, China passed landmark legislation stating that defendants could sue for “sexual harassment damage” — previously, plaintiffs wishing to sue for sexual harassment had to do so under the blanket of “personal integrity” infringement.
After Xiang revised her lawsuit to match the new regulations, the court ordered Liu Meng to apologize within 15 days, marking the first time a sexual harassment case was brought to court.
Xiang cried upon reading the words “appeal dismissed, original verdict upheld” at the end of the 17-page-long legal decision. Now that Liu’s appeal has been dismissed, the case is officially closed, with Xiang the designated victor. Though the only compensation she will receive is an apology, she is still hopeful, saying “our country’s laws are constantly improving.”
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Xiang’s victory is an important step forward for victims of sexual violence in China, who were largely encouraged to remain silent before China’s #MeToo movement in 2018.
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