Across China, people are taking to the Internet to speak out against the sexual abuse of children. The creative protest is made up of photographs of people displaying the message,
Principal, get a room with me. Leave the young students alone.
The message is a response to a recent case of sexual assault in Beijing in which a school principal, along with a government official, allegedly raped underage school girls after taking them to a hotel in Hainan province. The Chinese media has also recently exposed eight similar cases involving schoolteachers and children, causing outrage for Netizens.
The protest was started by Ye Haiyan (top left), a feminist activist best known for supporting the rights of sex workers. Ye Haiyan posted a photo of herself holding up the above message after a demonstration in Hainan province. Many others took up the mantle, producing the hashtag #GetARoomWithMe on Weibo, China’s popular Twitter-esque micro-blogging website. The meme protest appeared just before China’s annual Children’s Day on June 1.
In China it is more difficult to charge someone with child rape than it is in the United States, because Chinese perpetrators can be charged with “prostituting the underage”—a charge with less serious consequences than rape. Chinese children are thus seen as prostitutes with agency in the eyes of the law, and are often unaware of their right to report sexual assaults.
So far, the protest has been successful in gaining international media attention and thereby pressuring the Chinese Supreme Court to impose tougher sentencing for child abuse in all cases. The All-China Women’s Federation has also called for tougher sentencing on all crimes against girls.
However, protests are rarely allowed to continue in China, and last week Ye Haiyan was beaten by security officials at her home in Bobai county, Guangxi, where she lives with her 13-year-old daughter. Supporters believe it to be an attempt to silence her activism against child sex abuse. She has now been detained by the Chinese police who are refusing to release her.