‘Revealing’ clothes not behind sexual assault


Welcoming freshmen this year, Guangxi University, like any other university in China, issued a notice reminding them to stay safe on the campus. But a particular section of the notice triggered fierce discussions on social networking sites. It asked female students to avoid wearing “revealing” clothes, to cover their backs and waists, and to avoid low-necked tops. The notice stressed the idea is to ensure female students’ safety.

As the suggestion invited ridicule online, the university responded saying the campus cannot compromise on civilised behaviour.

It seems the university has a unique understanding of civilised behaviour. Being polite and behaving in a proper manner is civilised behaviour while being rude or using harsh language constitutes uncivilised behaviour. Wearing a low-necked top or a dress with a plunging neckline, or not covering the waist or back certainly has nothing to do with civilised or uncivilised behaviour.

Some argued that the university’s intention was to protect female students. No one doubts that, but it should be stressed that what a female student wears has no causal link to sexual assaults.

The university officials would have understood that better had they attended a recent exhibition in Belgium titled What were you wearing? Based on the account of students who survived a sexual assault, the exhibition showcased clothes they were wearing when the crime took place. A majority of them were fully covered, not exposing at all, and yet it did nothing to deter their attackers.

The only reason sexual assaults take place is because the sexual predators fail to control their urges. So when a sexual crime takes place, the fault lies with the perpetrator and not the victim.

It is a good thing that Guangxi University cares about female students’ safety. But that cannot be ensured by specifying what female students wear. Instead, arranging more guards on the campus and punishing sex offenders according to the law will serve the purpose.

Zhang Zhouxiang/CHINA DAILY/ANN