Last Tuesday, six little girls from an elementary school in Wanning city, an island province of Hainan, went missing after their sixth grade class. Local police found four of the girls on Wednesday and the other two on Thursday where it was discovered they had been taken to a hotel room by the principal from their elementary school and a public official. At first, local newspapers reported that these little girls had many bruises on their bodies, including vaginal trauma and evidence that they had been raped. And then the press unanimously changed their stories to say these two men did not take these children to the hotel room overnight, and in two of the cases for two nights, to have sex with them. They were just with six little girls in a hotel room with their parents unaware and panicking about these missing girls for no nefarious reasons. The newspapers also stopped using the word “rape” when discussing this case.
Having sex with anyone under the age of 14 was considered rape in China, consent or not, but the law was changed in 1997. Under this new law, with consent, even if a girl is under 14, the perpetrator may be allowed to go free as long as he claims not to know the girl is under 14. If, in addition, money is involved in the transaction, the perpetrator is usually prosecuted for “patronizing a prostitute,” which usually carries a sentence of five to 15 years in jail, instead of the far more serious crime of rape.
Only when a girl does not consent to sex is the perpetrator considered a rapist, a crime punishable by death in China. This is in sharp contrast with laws in most countries, where sex with someone under the age of consent is considered rape with or without consent, with the understanding that before that age, a child is not capable of legally giving consent.
The principal has been fired and the children are undergoing counseling, but there is no word on whether the men will face criminal charges for the actual rape. You don’t take six little girls to a hotel room and have them come home with vaginal trauma and then get to deny you raped them, just because China has some horrific law that enables you to do so.
There are a few petitions online asking the government to amend this law, but in the cases of these six girls it is obviously too late, and too late for other children who have fallen prey to rape and have had their rapists plead to lesser charges or to say they had no idea the victims where under the age of 14 or that the children were prostitutes. I know China is a long way from us and it seems impossible to make our voices heard in regard to this, but this child rape case makes me think that something drastic has to be done in order to protect children from falling prey to this ridiculous law. Those poor girls.