Women in China have been using social media site Sina Weibo to fight against sexual assault.

Recently, Sina Weibo statistics have seen a surge in the number of campaign comments in China relating to fighting sexual assault. Victims of sexual and domestic assault and rape are being encouraged to make their voices heard to fight for women’s rights.

In China, rape can be considered as taboo. As a result, victims are often afraid to come forward. Domestic violence has also not truly been recognised in China as a crime until recently. China only passed its first domestic violence law in December 2015.

Women’s rights activists in China have faced difficulty in speaking out about sexual assault. Last year, five activists were arrested, sparking an online backlash with netizens using the #FreeTheFive hashtag.

Recently, the story of the alleged rape of a female intern at Guangzhou’s Southern Daily newspaper has dominated Chinese social media sites. Local police have arrested a reporter working at the Chinese media company who allegedly also sexually assaulted¬†two other interns. #OnlineFeverThatJournalistRapedFemaleIntern has consequently been trending on Weibo over the past two days. An interview conducted with the alleged victim by the Women Awakening rights group has drawn particular attention.

The alleged assault victim, who used the pseudonym Little Flower said that she was not aware that it was rape and she considered rape to be “a stranger in the street… using violence, a knife to force you”. She felt that she thought that nothing would come of the case as she considered her alleged attacker to be “well-known”.

In the north of China, social media users have also been following an incident of alleged violence, sparking the hashtag #BeatenBecauseBoyfriendSuspectedCheating .

Weibo #BeatenBecauseBoyfriendSuspectedCheating following alleged assault

Images of Beijing-based user “YuzuSama” showing black eyes and bruises has accompanied the hashtag. Users have encouraged YuzuSama to to go hospital and to contact the police. Users reassured her to “not be afraid” after she announced that her boyfriend had been arrested. She said,

“When I saw him, I was terribly scared.”

Weibo has seen an influx of other similar campaigns over the past month, including #ShanghaiMetroWolf, #NowAWretchedManOnChengduMetro and #TwoWomenMolestedonMetroLine13. The hashtags were trending after a number of women were touched inappropriately on crowded subways. In April, Zhengzhou introduced its first women-only bus in response to the number of sexual assaults. However, the single-sex bus caused controversy online with one netizen saying, “Not all men are bad, but aren’t all men being discriminated against here?”.

Many social media users claim that attitudes towards sex are outdated, whilst First Lady Peng Liyuan who is a special envoy for the advancement of Girls’ and Women’s Education at Unesco has spoken at the UN about empowering women through education.

In related news, a Chinese textbook that claimed “sex degrades women” also came under fire.