by Ammar Younas
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January 6, 2022

The Li Tianyi rape case is one of the famous cases of criminal law in China. Li was the son of a famous singer with the rank of general in the People’s Liberation Army of China. Li and his friends allegedly raped a bar girl after drinking in the same bar. Mr. Li and his friends were drinking, singing and playing games with the victim and then they left the Bar with the victim and took her to the hotel where they raped her. Later Li was sentenced to 10 years of jail.

Professor Yi Yanyou, a professor of criminal law and director of the Centre for Evidence Law at Tsinghua University, one of the most prestigious universities in the country commented on this incident by posting on the internet:

“To emphasize that the victim is a bargirl doesn’t mean it’s OK to rape a bargirl. It only means that a bargirl is more likely to agree to a sexual act. Besides, even if it is a rape, to rape a bargirl does less harm than to rape a good woman.”

When his comment didn’t get the reaction he expected, he reiterated his point again:

“About the last point, I made the following revision: It does more harm to rape a good woman than to rape a bargirl, a dancing girl, an escort, or a prostitute. “

His statement caused an uproar among netizens. One of them commented: “A law professor from one of China’s best universities thinks it’s less harmful to commit crimes against one group of people than the other. Now we know why some convicts live but others die for the same kind of economic crimes. This is our reality.”

When Professor Yi was given the opportunity to defend or explain himself, he decided to encourage more anger among netizens. He told reporters:

 “The internet is a paradise for the mob, and when necessary, China can shut it down”.

He eventually apologized for his comment, but he stated in an interview that he refused to delete his post as he believed that deleting it would be admitting he was wrong.

I studied Criminal Law at Tsinghua University from the same Professor Yi Yanyou who discussed this case in our class. We had long discussions on this topic from all dimensions and finally reached the conclusion that this is no more a question of law but has become the question of social psychology.

A similar incident has happened in Uzbekistan. In October, a female student accused the Deputy Dean of her institute of sexual harassment and allegedly was thrown out of the window of the university building. The administration of the university had to bear serious consequences and the issue was extensively discussed on electronic and social media. Deputy Dean took a plea by pointing a finger at the character of the girl, but social media showed sympathies towards the girl until now. Recently this month, some intimate videos of the same girl have been released on the internet.

Some say that the girl sent these videos to her boyfriend whereas some TV channels are claiming that these videos were sent to the deputy dean who allegedly threw her out of the window in October. The current public opinion shared on social media demonstrates that the majority considers the girl at fault, contrary to the public opinion in October.

I personally think that we should consider this case on its legal merits without involving social emotions. In the majority of the jurisdictions, the background of the victim of the rape crime is not allowed by law to be disclosed. Hence the criminal is charged whether the alleged victim is a virgin or a promiscuous woman or even a prostitute.

Whereas, in traditional China and Uzbekistan also, a girl’s character is the first piece of evidence to exculpate the alleged rapist even to the extent of damaging the reputation of the alleged victim. It is a common argument of the defense that the girl was of loose character.

Some of my colleagues from the legal community might say that it is necessary to prove someone a victim before talking about “Victim Blaming”. The girl was not a victim because she was a habitual victim or manipulator.

In my opinion, even to discuss the question, “If a girl has loose character, can she be harassed?’, in its essence is against the general principles of law. Fairness is one basis of law, which helps to govern society and to control individual behavior. And fairness is usually ignored when we trail a case in the court of public opinion. Based on the same principle of fairness, we allow all criminals to defend themselves. Or analogously, we cannot allow violating the legal rights of minorities just because they are minorities.

The Chinese case which I referred to earlier had the same legal merits, but different public opinion was noticed as compared to the current Uzbek public opinion. In the Chinese case, the bargirl drank with the boys and later went with the boys to the hotel by her own choice. Society supported her stance ignoring the fact that she was a bargirl and drunk that night. People’s opinion was clear that no matter who the girl was, she should get justice.

On the other hand, we should have sympathy towards the stance of the deputy dean as well. The legal essence of crime consists of three essential elements: actus reus (an act in violation of the law), mens rea (a guilty mind), and the concurrence of an act in violation of the law and a culpable mental state. The actus reus is an allegation and the mens rea or guilty mind is yet to be proved. Procedures are as important as the substance in law for the smooth functioning of a justice system. In the Chinese case, Prof. Yi argued that society had put pressure on the court’s decision just because the rapist was the son of a military general. In this Uzbek case, I am not in a position to comment on what the court will decide after considering all the evidence and arguments of both sides.

What is happening on the internet is not the question of law but of social psychology which worries me a lot as a legal scientist. I personally think that society is equally at fault and should take responsibility for it. During COVID-19, the level of frustration has increased, and the internet is the best place to release it. But the actual question is that what kind of confidence we are trying to give to our young girls by discussing this case on the internet? It conveys a clear message to all the girls to keep quiet in such cases, otherwise, they have to face disgraceful consequences. Shouldn’t we give confidence to our girls to speak out loud if someone tries to violate their dignity? Or do we want to stay primitive in terms of the legal and social progression of a patriarchic society? It also threatens me as an academician that what about my rights if a girl simply enters my office and blackmails me by saying that she is going to throw her out of the window if I will not give her excellent marks?

To save babies from pedophiles, child psychologists have developed the concept of “good touch bad touch”. Good touch is when a mother hugs a child, or a doctor examines a child, or a grandparent kisses their child, etc. This is the touch that makes the child happy or secure. Bad touch is a touch that makes a child afraid, uncomfortable, or nervous. A child psychologist or pediatrician is developing a number of learning instruments to teach about good touch bad touch to the babies so they could get confidence and share with their parents if someone does a bad touch to them. There are also programs to groom the parents to learn, how to deal with the babies who report bad touches and what should parents do if kids are not comfortable with a situation at school. The confidence of speaking (reporting a crime) is very important otherwise the baby will suffer from emotional and physical trauma for its whole life. Likewise, the public trial of such crimes will decrease the confidence and tendency of crime reporting by both parties.

All the parents and teachers, including me, are at fault who are enforcing our primitive standards and preferences on our kids which lead to such cases on daily basis. Students are under a lot of pressure just because they try to meet the so-called expectations of society. A student should get excellent marks because it is good for the reputation of student among her peers and sometimes is considered as the only indicator to prove that they are doing well in the university. Parents also brag about the good grade of their kids in front of their colleagues and deliberately enforce a competition on their kids which becomes part of their subconscious mind. It is also a matter of the reputation of professionals that they stay unnecessarily formal, stubborn, and strict towards their clients or students, just to make them feel that they are in power.

All the universities have very high administrative posts assigned to the people whose exclusive job is to do the moral/spiritual grooming of the students. But what about the grooming of professionals? If such incidents are being reported from the educational institutions, it means that both, students and teachers need grooming, and the department of grooming needs to be updated. It also demonstrates the fact that the internal/ domestic dispute resolution mechanism is a failure and students/professionals have no confidence in it. That is why the girl took this extreme step of throwing herself out of the window or the deputy dean knew that no one in the university could do anything to him so he can harass her.

#MeToo campaign and other social movements against sexual abuse and sexual harassment people publicize allegations of sex crimes are getting momentum. This shows that the issue of workplace harassment is real and needs attention. False accusations of rape/ sexual assault on the other hand are also increasing and are a common instrument of those playing women’s cards. The privacy versus security debate needs the immediate attention of all the stakeholders. The people are demanding a strong surveillance system but are not willing to compromise on their privacy. People should understand that if they need security then they have to compromise on their privacy and if they need privacy then the government at present has no mechanism to ensure their security without intervening in their privacy.

All this meltdown to the point that we as a society should reconsider our standards and preferences to meet the demands of the 21st century’s progressive society. From a legal point of view, it is very important that the good touch and bad touch in society should be reported and handled as per the established procedures which should be reviewed and updated at regular intervals.

Biography: Ammar Younas is a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Private Law in Tashkent State University of Law Uzbekistan. He is an ANSO scholar at the School of Humanities, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences. He studied Chinese Law as a Chinese Government Scholar at Tsinghua University School of Law in Beijing, China. Ammar also holds degrees in Medicine, Jurisprudence, Finance, Political Marketing, International and Comparative Politics, and Human Rights from Kyrgyzstan, Italy, and Lebanon. His research interests include but are not limited to the Societal Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Regulation of AI & Emerging Technologies, Human Rights, Medical Law, and Central Asian Law.

Cite as:  Ammar Younas, “Socio-psycho-legal aspects of sexual harassment: a case of student/faculty relationship in Uzbekistan”, Uzbekistan Law Blog, 06.01.2022.