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South Korean Man Gets 34 Years for Running Sexual Exploitation Chat Room

SEOUL — A South Korean man was sentenced to 34 years in prison on Thursday as part of the country’s crackdown on an infamous network of online chat rooms that lured young women, including minors, with promises of high-paying jobs before forcing them into pornography.

The man, Moon Hyeong-wook, opened one of the first such sites in 2015, prosecutors said. Mr. Moon, 25, operated a clandestine members-only chat room under the nickname “GodGod” on the Telegram messenger app, offering more than 3,700 clips of illicit pornography, they said.

Mr. Moon, an architecture major who was expelled from his college after his arrest last year, was one of the most notorious of the hundreds of people the police have arrested in the course of their investigation. Another chat room operator, a man named Cho Joo-bin, was sentenced to 40 years in prison last November.

“The accused inflicted irreparable damage on his victims through his anti-society crime that undermined human dignity,” the presiding judge, Cho Soon-pyo,​ said of Mr. Moon in his ruling on Thursday.​ The trial took place in a district court in the city of Andong in central South Korea​.

Mr. Moon was indicted in June on charges​ of forcing 21 young women, including minors, into ​making ​sexually explicit videos between 2017 and early last year.​

He ​approached young women looking for high-paying jobs through social media platforms​, then lured them into making sexually explicit videos, promising big payouts​, prosecutors said​.​ He also hacked into the online accounts of women who uploaded sexually explicit content, pretending to be a police officer investigating pornography.

​Once he got hold of the images and personal data, he used them to blackmail the women, threatening to send the clips to their parents unless the victims supplied more footage, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors demanded a life sentence for Mr. Moon.

Last December, the police said​ they had investigated 3,500 suspects, most of them men in their 20s or teenagers, as part of their investigation of the online chat rooms that served as avenues for sexual exploitation and pornographic distribution​. They arrested 245 of them.

The police also identified 1,100 victims.

The ​scandal, known in South Korea as “the Nth Room Case,” caused outrage over the cruel exploitation of the young women​. Women’s rights groups picketed courthouses where chat room operators were on trial, accusing judges of condoning sex crimes by handing down what they considered light punishments.

On Thursday, outside the Andong courthouse, advocates held a rally demanding the maximum punishment for Mr. Moon.

In recent years, the South Korean police began cracking down on sexually explicit file-sharing websites as part of international efforts to fight child pornography. As smartphones proliferated, ​they soon realized that much of the illegal trade was migrating to online chat rooms on messaging services like Telegram.

The police said they had trouble tracking down customers of the online chat rooms because they often used cryptocurrency payments to avoid being caught.

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Powerful Men Fall, One After Another, in France’s Delayed #MeToo

The executive, Eric Brion, did not deny making such comments. But because the two did not work together, Mr. Brion argued the comments did not amount to sexual harassment and sued Ms. Muller for defamation. A ruling in 2019 that ordered Ms. Muller to pay 15,000 euros in damages, around $17,650, was overturned last week.

In 2019, the court said that Ms. Muller had “surpassed the acceptable limits of freedom of expression, as her comments descended into a personal attack.” This time, the judges found that Ms. Muller had acted in good faith, adding that the “#balancetonporc and #MeToo movements had drawn a lot of attention, had been hailed by diverse officials and personalities and had positively contributed to letting women speak freely.”

Camille Froidevaux-Metterie, a leading feminist philosopher, said that it was significant that the men now under investigation were leaders in a diversity of fields. Revelations surrounding them have undermined the myths of Frenchmen as great seducers and of a refined romantic culture where “we, French, in our interplay of seduction, know how to interpret nonverbal signs and we have this art of seduction, a gentle commerce between the sexes,” she said.

“These are men who all embody, in some ways, the old patriarchal order of things — of men of power and men who have used and abused their power to sexually exploit the bodies of others, whether they be women or young men,” Ms. Froidevaux-Metterie said, adding, “Perhaps we are experiencing the first real shock to that system.”

Some conservative intellectuals regard the ever-growing list of accused prominent men as evidence of the contamination of French society by American ideas on gender, race, religion and postcolonialism.

Pierre-André Taguieff, a historian and a leading critic of the American influence, said in an email that “neo-feminist and neo-antiracist ideologues denounce universalism, especially French republican universalism, as a fraud, a deceitful mask of imperialism, sexism and racism.”

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‘The Most Unsafe Workplace’? Parliament, Australian Women Say

SYDNEY, Australia — When Julia Banks arrived in Parliament five years ago after a successful career in law and business, she felt as if she’d stepped back into the ’80s. Alcohol flowed freely. She occasionally smelled it on the breath of male lawmakers when they voted.

Many men in Australian politics also thought nothing of belittling women, she said, or spreading sexual rumors. More than a few treated junior employees like playthings. Once, Ms. Banks said, a fellow lawmaker introduced a new intern while slowly rubbing his hand up and down the young woman’s back.

“I could see her visibly flinch,” Ms. Banks said. “She and I locked eyes, and I’m sure the nonverbal cue to me was ‘don’t say anything, please don’t say anything, I’ll lose my job.’”

“It is the most unsafe workplace in the country,” she added.

Australia’s #MeToo moment has arrived, late but strong, like a tsunami directed at the country’s political foundation. Six weeks after a former legislative staffer, Brittany Higgins, accused a senior colleague of raping her in the defense minister’s office, thousands of women are standing up to share their stories, march for justice and demand change.

finishing a book about bias, said she encountered the low hum of disrespect at one of her first fund-raisers, where she discovered she was not on the speakers’ list. It was all men.

from 15th to 50th in the world for parliamentary gender diversity. The parliamentary delegations of the conservative Liberal and National parties, which govern with a slim majority, are more than 80 percent male.

Contributing to the fraternity vibe, Canberra is a part-time capital. Votes are often called after 6 p.m., and families are left behind in local districts, since the legislature only sits for 20 weeks a year. When it’s busy, Parliament has often been compared to a gentleman’s club, though to some, it’s more Peter Pan at the pub.

Sarah Hanson-Young, a Greens party senator, said male rivals would often shout across the chamber the names of men she was falsely accused of sleeping with.

“It was like a game these blokes were playing with just the most intense level of scorn,” she told Ms. Ellis for her book “Sex, Lies and Question Time.”

Ms. Hanson-Young sued a Senate colleague, David Leyonhjelm, for defamation after he shouted “stop shagging men” at her on the floor of the chamber in 2018. She recently won a $120,000 judgment against him but endured death threats along the way.

apologized and removed the article. But the story went viral, and Ms. Husar said she was forced by her party to step aside and not run again in 2019.

Ms. Ellis called the story about Ms. Husar “weaponized gossip.” She said she had a near miss when a reporter almost wrote about a lie making the rounds, that she and her chief of staff were sleeping with the same man.

Women said the message from their bosses was always clear: Secrets are for insiders, and don’t bother trying to find the truth.

“There has been this sort of ‘do know, don’t tell’ policy,” said Professor Chappell at the University of New South Wales. “The bubble analogy works — everyone who’s in there was keeping the secrets.”

have since come forward with accusations in the news media against the same man. (He was fired after the alleged attack on Ms. Higgins but has not been publicly identified.)

The women’s collective claims broke the stalemate. Women in Parliament and others who had recently left called for accountability. Tens of thousands of women marched all over Australia on March 4 to demand justice, inspired by Ms. Higgins and angered by accusations against Christian Porter, then the attorney general.

Just a day earlier, as news reports emerged of an unidentified cabinet minister accused of sexual assault, Mr. Porter had named himself as the suspect. He publicly denied the allegation — made by a woman who said he raped her when they were teenagers — and refused to resign.

masturbating onto the desks of female ministers. One of them has been fired.

A Liberal lawmaker was accused of harassing two female constituents. He agreed not to run again and apologized, but Mr. Morrison has come under fire for not making him resign.

Many women are also angry at the prime minister for protecting Mr. Porter, whom he recently moved from his role as attorney general into a new cabinet position.

And more women are resisting a return to business as usual.

Last week, Dr. Anne Webster, a new member of Parliament with the conservative National Party, said a male lawmaker had sexually harassed her. That kind of thing might once have been ignored, but she filed a formal complaint with party leadership, prompting the man to apologize.

“That’s what Australians expect of us now,” she said.

“Inch by inch, culture changes,” she added. “All of us are learning; all of us are adjusting to a new platform.”

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After Claims of Sexual Abuse, Oxfam Suspends 2 Workers in Africa

Oxfam has suspended two staff members over accusations of sexual misconduct in the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent years, the British charity said on Friday, months after commissioning a broader investigation into abuse claims in the central African nation.

The suspensions were the latest troubles for Oxfam, whose funding from the British government was halted for nearly three years after a sexual exploitation scandal in Haiti in early 2018. The charity was allowed to apply again for that assistance only a few weeks ago.

“We have suspended two members of Oxfam staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of an ongoing external investigation, which we set up last November, into allegations of abuses of power, including bullying and sexual misconduct,” the charity said in a statement on Friday.

The accusations against Oxfam and other aid workers in Congo come amid a broader examination of accusations of sexual abuse by humanitarian aid workers and United Nations peacekeepers working with some of the world’s most vulnerable people in war zones and humanitarian emergencies.

The New Humanitarian, a nonprofit news organization based in Geneva, about the conduct of aid workers in Congo during the Ebola crisis from 2018 to 2020. It cited accusations from more than 50 women who said they had been sexually abused by workers at several leading charities, including Oxfam.

The accusations focus on multiple incidents in eastern Congo at a time when several international aid groups were working in the region. The report mentioned staff members of several other aid groups and agencies.

Oxfam said in its statement that it was “acutely aware of our duty to survivors, including in supporting them to speak out safely,” and added, “We are working hard to conclude the investigation fairly, safely and effectively.” 

In February 2018, the Haitian government suspended the British branch of Oxfam from working in the country after an investigation found that there had been sexual misconduct by employees and that aid workers had abused their power and paid women for sex.

A cholera outbreak that later killed thousands of Haitians was traced to United Nations peacekeeping troops sent in after the quake. And in recent years staff members of U.N. peacekeeping missions and some of its aid agencies have been accused of sexual abuse in the Central African Republic, Congo and Haiti.

The issues have forced a re-examining of safeguarding measures within the organization. Last month, António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, released an annual report on the global body’s response to sexual exploitation and abuse.

That report acknowledged the most recent accusations implicating United Nations workers involved in the Ebola response, and said that an independent commission and other bodies were “investigating these wrongs.”

“I am deeply concerned that such egregious allegations continue to implicate United Nations personnel and pledge that we will redouble and spare no efforts to address the underlying factors that harm those whom we seek to assist,” Mr. Guterres said in the report.

The U.N. report also noted that the coronavirus pandemic had “deepened existing inequalities and exposed those in vulnerable situations to increased risks of sexual exploitation and abuse.”

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Is the Fight Against Sexism in Australia’s Politics Different This Time?

The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. Sign up to get it by email.

For most of the past week, I’ve been interviewing current and former members of Parliament about the mistreatment of women in Australian politics. I’ve spoken mainly to those with direct experience inside the system, and I found myself starting off with the same question: Does what’s happening now feel different?

Everyone — from Tanya Plibersek in Labor, to Dr. Anne Webster of the National Party, to Julia Banks, who gave up her Liberal Party seat in 2019 — responded with the same answer. Yes.

They all told me that, six weeks after Brittany Higgins spoke up with her allegation of rape in the defense minister’s office when she was a staffer in 2019, the dynamic has changed. Women are angry and unified, speaking up in politics and beyond. More of the men who used to brush off complaints of sexism as whining about the always-tough arena of politics have started to see that it’s an uneven playing field, where women compete with extra burdens and threats.

But is that enough to change the system, to make it fair and equal? Maybe not, they said — not yet.

“It feels different in terms of momentum, in terms of moving toward change,” Ms. Banks told me. “But I do worry about the leadership and the lack of accountability. That’s what it comes down to. We’ve seen a lack of accountability before — it can’t be treated like a P.R. issue.”

Dr. Webster, a sociologist who is the National party’s point person on gender issues, compared the level of public outrage to a tsunami, with an impact still unknown.

“The events of the last six weeks, nobody is taking them lying down,” she said. “Everyone is on alert and wondering: Where are we going from here?”

What many of the women found discouraging was the lack, so far, of demonstrable reform. The most obvious solutions I heard proposed by current and former lawmakers, along with political scientists and legal experts, have yet to become a reality, or even a likely possibility.

Susan Harris-Rimmer, a law professor at Griffith University and a former parliamentary staffer, noted that Parliament still does not have an independent reporting system for workplace complaints, even after Ms. Higgins’s allegations and a slew of additional scandals and accusations against men in government.

An independent reporting system has long been the standard in most big businesses, universities and large institutions of any kind. Over the past few years, Canada and England have updated workplace protocols in their parliaments with a more modern system that makes it easier for victims of bullying or abuse to come forward without repurcussions.

Australia has not. In Parliament and in politics generally, everything still goes through the parties. That creates obvious conflicts of interest and contributes to the kind of situation that Ms. Higgins described, where she said she felt pressured not to report the rape allegation to police because it would have hurt the Liberal Party’s chances in the 2019 election.

Just as importantly if not more so, I was also told, men — not just women — need to do a better job of enforcing reasonable standards of behavior. Men need to redraw the lines of what is acceptable and then enforce the rules with zero tolerance.

“We need to recognize that it wasn’t women who established the culture in Parliament; it wasn’t women who set up the practices,” said Kate Ellis, a Labor Party lawmaker from 2004 to 2019. “It’s been men and it’s those men who need to stand up now and change.”

Louise Chappell, a political scientist at the University of New South Wales who has studied gender in politics since the ’90s, said the current approach tends to involve adding more ministers for women, as the prime minister did earlier this week with his cabinet reshuffle.

The suggestion, she said, is that women are somehow responsible — “It’s still how can we fix up women rather than fix the system,” she said.

She offered up an intriguing alternative.

“Why don’t we have a minister for men behaving better? Why don’t we shift the lens?”

Another suggestion that she said might sound radical but isn’t: Quotas for men. Instead of saying parties need to have 40 or 50 percent women, why not put a limit on how many men can be selected by the parties as candidates?

“We’ve gotten so used to looking at women’s absences rather than men’s privileges and access,” she said. “The first thing we need to do is get men to stop behaving so badly that when women get in there, they just want to flee.”

My article about the chauvinist culture of Australian politics will be out in the next few days.

In the meantime, here are our stories of the week.


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‘They Told Us Not to Resist’: Sexual Violence Pervades Ethiopia’s War

Mona Lisa lay on a hospital bed in Mekelle, the main city in war-torn northern Ethiopia, her body devastated but her defiance on display.

Named for the iconic painting, the 18-year-old Ethiopian high school graduate had survived an attempted rape that left her with seven gunshot wounds and an amputated arm. She wanted it to be known that she had resisted.

“This is ethnic cleansing,” she said. “Soldiers are targeting Tigrayan women to stop them giving birth to more Tigrayans.”

Her account is one of hundreds detailing abuses in Tigray, the mountainous region in northern Ethiopia where a grinding civil war has been accompanied by a parallel wave of atrocities including widespread sexual assault targeting women.

told the Security Council last week that more than 500 Ethiopian women have formally reported sexual violence in Tigray, although the actual toll is likely far higher, she added. In the city of Mekelle, health workers say new cases emerge every day.

The assaults have become a focus of growing international outrage about a conflict where the fighting is largely happening out of sight, in the mountains and the countryside. But evidence of atrocities against civilians — mass shootings, looting, sexual assault — is everywhere.

increasingly desperate pleas for international action on Ethiopia, led by senior United Nations and European Union officials, the pressure appears to be producing results. President Biden recently sent an envoy, Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, to Ethiopia for talks with Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, that lasted five hours.

On Tuesday, addressing Ethiopia’s Parliament, Mr. Abiy publicly acknowledged that sexual assault had become an integral part of a war he once promised would be swift and bloodless.

said earlier this month.

The war started in November after Mr. Abiy accused the T.P.L.F. of attacking a major military base in a bid to overthrow his government. The T.P.L.F. ruled Ethiopia for nearly three decades until Mr. Abiy came to power in 2018, then retreated to its stronghold in Tigray where it began to openly defy the new prime minister’s authority.

In some ways, the bitter fight is driven by deeply rooted forces — longstanding land disputes, opposing visions over the future shape of Ethiopia, and a rivalry with Eritrea going back decades. But civilians, and particularly women, are bearing the brunt of the most disturbing violence.

Rocks, nails and other objects have been forced inside the bodies of women — and some men — during sexual assaults, according to health workers. Men have been forced to rape their own family members under threat of violence, Pramila Patten, the top U.N. official on sexual violence in conflict, said in January.

“Rape is being used as a weapon of war,” said Letay Tesfay of the Tigray Women’s Association, which runs a safe house for women in Mekelle. “What’s happening is unimaginable.”

called a concerted effort to destroy the region’s health care system. In his meeting with Mr. Abiy in March, Senator Coons said they discussed “directly and forcefully” the reports of widespread human rights violations including rape.

Whether Mr. Abiy delivers on his promise of bringing the perpetrators to justice, he added, “is going to be critical to any successful resolution of this conflict.”

marched into Mekelle on Nov. 28. Some said they had been raped by soldiers in the camps for displaced people on the edge of the city; others were abducted from their homes in rural areas and held for days as soldiers repeatedly raped them.

The doctor, who like several other medics spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the authorities, produced a list of 18 registered sexual violence patients at the hospital. The youngest was 14. Most said their attackers were soldiers, he said.

In one bed, a 29-year old woman who asked to be identified only by her first name, Helen, trembled as she recounted how Eritrean and Ethiopian troops tied her to a tree near her home in Agula, 15 miles north of Mekelle, and assaulted her repeatedly over a 10-day period in late November.

“I lost count,” she said. “They took photos of me, poured alcohol on me and laughed.” Some of her assailants also shot dead her 12-year-old son, she added.

Selam Assefe, a police investigator working on rape cases at the Ayder Referral Hospital, corroborated Ms. Helen’s account.

Most sexual assault cases in Tigray, however, may not be recorded anywhere. Health workers said that officials are reluctant to register such violence, fearing the military could target them for documenting the crime. Patients often remain anonymous for the same reason.

Filsan Abdullahi Ahmed, Ethiopia’s minister of women, children and youth, insisted that the federal government was taking seriously the reports of sexual violence in Tigray, and had sent a task force including social workers, police and prosecutors to investigate.

While her own mandate was limited to providing victims with psychological support, Ms. Filsan said she had pressured Ethiopia’s attorney general to deliver justice. But it is a difficult process, she insisted.

“I cannot 100 percent confirm whom this is being committed by,” Ms. Filsan said, referring to the perpetrators.

The sexual attacks are so common that even some Ethiopian soldiers have spoken out. At a public meeting in Mekelle in January, a man in military uniform made an outburst that was broadcast on state TV.

“I was angry yesterday,” he said. “Why does a woman get raped in Mekelle city?” The soldier, who was not identified, questioned why the police weren’t stopping them. “It wouldn’t be shocking if it happened during fighting,” he said. “But women were raped yesterday and today when the local police and federal police are around.”

Haben, a waitress in Mekelle, was raped with two other women at the cafe where they work in December, she said. Her body is still covered in bruises from the assault.

“They told us not to resist,” she recalled. “‘Lie down. Don’t shout.’”

But even if they had shouted, she added, “there was nobody to listen.”

An employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Mekelle, Ethiopia.

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Women Are Calling Out ‘Rape Culture’ in U.K. Schools

LONDON — For weeks, the harrowing anonymous testimonies have poured in, one after another.

Accusations of sexual assault of girls as young as 9. Girls shamed by classmates after intimate photos were circulated without their consent. One girl was blamed by classmates after she reported being raped at a party.

On a platform called Everyone’s Invited, thousands of young women and girls in Britain have recently been sharing frank accounts of sexual violence, sexism and misogyny during their time as students — accusations of everything including criminal sexual attacks to coercive encounters to verbal harassment to unwanted touching — offering raw and unfiltered discussions of their personal trauma.

But when taken together, the accusations paint a troubling picture of widespread sexual violence by students both within the school walls and outside, particularly at parties. In addition to reports of violence, the accounts also included claims of sexism and misogyny.

“This is a real problem,” said Soma Sara, the 22-year-old Londoner who founded Everyone’s Invited. “Rape culture is real.”

killing of Sarah Everard, whose abduction from a London street in early March set off a national conversation about violence women face.

Schools, local and national officials have begun investigations. On Wednesday, the government tasked an education body with conducting an immediate review of safeguarding policies in both public and private schools.

Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council leader for child protection, told the BBC on Monday, “We have a real problem here.”

A helpline will be launched on Thursday, and criminal allegations investigated, the Department of Education said. London’s Metropolitan Police encouraged victims to report crimes to the authorities.

While the accounts omit the names of both victims and perpetrators, they identify the schools the students attended, whether the alleged assaults took place on school grounds or elsewhere. Some were prestigious private schools that soon made headlines.

Dulwich College, King’s College School, Highgate School, Latymer Upper School and more — have now written open letters to school leaders by name, detailing a culture of silence and victim blaming. In one instance, a former student said she was discouraged from taking legal action in a sexual assault case. In another, girls described being groped in a school hallway.

King’s College School and Highgate School issued statements saying they have begun independent reviews of the accusations and school policies, and Latymer Upper School said it had encouraged students to come to school authorities directly. Some of the schools named did not respond directly to requests for comment, but in local news reports similarly said they were taking the matter seriously and investigating in some cases.

Accusations of sexual abuse are not the province only of elite prep schools. Dozens of schools, universities and state-run schools have been named, though testimonies received after March 23 no longer identify the institutions. The thousands of stories speak to a pervasive problem facing young women and girls, Ms. Sara said, adding she hoped the focus on certain prominent schools would not distract attention from the bigger issues.

“If we point the finger at a person, at a place, at a demographic, you’re actually making it seem like these cases are rare or just anomalies, when really, they’re not rare,” she said.

collectively to bear the burden of ensuring safety.

It was against this backdrop that Ms. Sara posed a question this month on the Everyone’s Invited Instagram account and website she started last year, as she grappled with her own experiences of sexual violence while a student.

She asked if others had experienced sexual violence during their school years or knew someone who had. Nearly every respondent said yes.

While the accounts vary, and are anonymous and unverified, the sheer numbers — more than 11,500 and counting — could not easily be ignored. When she shared the accounts, Ms. Sara withheld the names of the victims and the accused, but not the schools they attended.

recommendation to do just that after a 2016 inquiry.

“We need a better inspection regime, we need to have a proper inquiry, we need the government to actually be collecting the data — they’re not actually currently collecting this data anywhere,” Ms. Phillips said.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said in a statement that the accusations were “shocking and abhorrent” and that they must be dealt with properly.

“While the majority of schools take their safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously, I am determined to make sure the right resources and processes are in place across the education system to support any victims of abuse to come forward,” he said.

Government agencies and the police are in contact with Everyone’s Invited to provide support to those who are reporting abuse.

Sexual assaults and attempted sexual assaults often go unreported worldwide, so crime data can give only a partial picture of the scale of the problem. But in Britain other statistics show that sexual violence against school-age girls and young women is endemic.

were even more likely to be sexually assaulted.

A new survey from Plan International UK, a children’s charity, showed that 58 percent of girls ages 14 to 21 in Britain have been publicly sexually harassed in their learning environments.

national conversation about violence against women, Chanel Contos, 23, started an online petition in February that included thousands of testimonies of sexual violence among students.

The petition called for an overhaul of sex education with a holistic, early and consent-based approach and is being discussed in the Australian Parliament.

“The fact that two girls on opposite sides of the world, who didn’t know each other, experienced the exact same thing,” is telling, Ms. Contos said in an interview.

Dr. Gill, the criminology professor in London, pointed out that conversations about rape culture in institutions — or environments where attitudes or behavior about gender and sexuality have the effect of normalizing and trivializing sexual violence, like assault or rape — are not new. Successive waves of the feminist movement have called attention to it, she said.

But schools have a duty to safeguard students, she said, from creating safe spaces for victims of sexual violence to come forward to educating other students about their behavior.

“How do they teach choice?” Dr. Gill said. “How do they teach respect? How do they encourage young people to build healthy relationships?”

She noted that sex education curriculum should focus on intersectionality and consent. “I think there’s an opportunity now for transformative change.”

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In China Sex Scandal, Many See a #MeToo Moment

Even Xinhua, the official news agency, chided local officials for trying to eliminate posts about the topic. “In the face of public skepticism, the local authorities should not resort to deleting posts,” the Xinhua commentary said. “A public response is the only correct measure.”

Ms. Xu’s fight is now playing out in public to a rapt audience.

Her parents hired two lawyers from Shanghai to represent her, but the local appeals court rejected their request to meet. Instead, it appointed two legal aid lawyers, according to a post by Ms. Xu’s uncle on Weibo, the social media service. He used a verified Weibo account, meaning the Chinese censors knew his identity and tacitly approved of the comments. The post was reposted more than 66,000 times and liked over a quarter of a million times in 24 hours.

Ms. Xu’s uncle said on the account that the government officials were socially respected figures in their 40s and 50s, far more senior and powerful than his niece. Their ages aren’t clear, since the verdict disclosed only their family names and their positions.

Online watchers of the trial also amplified an article by an online news outlet in Sichuan earlier this month that said it had interviewed Ms. Xu’s father. According to the article, her father accused local authorities of making her a scapegoat and asked why they hadn’t come forward earlier.

The outlet didn’t name him, and his comments couldn’t be corroborated, though her uncle quoted it approvingly in a Weibo post. The news site deleted the article a few hours later without explanation. Still, a hashtag citing the article got 130 million views within 12 hours on Weibo.

Even as people online cheer Ms. Xu’s appeal, many acknowledge that she has a tough fight ahead. They fear she will become the latest victim of the government’s drive to prove itself right. They also believe that, in the dark corners of government offices, many female employees will have to continue putting up with their bosses’ sexual advances.

“This is not the first time this type of thing has happened,” one Weibo user wrote, “nor will it be the last time.”

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Amid Allegations of Rape and Misogyny, Australia’s Leader Demotes 2 Ministers

SYDNEY, Australia — Seeking to address rising anger over allegations of rape and misogyny against members of his government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia reshuffled his cabinet on Monday, demoting two ministers tied to separate scandals, but keeping them in senior positions.

Defense Minister Linda Reynolds will become the minister for government services, Mr. Morrison said. Attorney General Christian Porter will give up that role while continuing to serve in the cabinet as the minister for science, industry and technology.

Mr. Morrison also announced a new task force on women’s equality, safety, economic security, health and well-being, while adding several women to the cabinet. They include Michaelia Cash, who will become attorney general, and Karen Andrews, who will become minister for home affairs.

“These changes will shake up what needs to be shaken up,” Mr. Morrison said, adding that having more women in the cabinet would bring “a fresh lens” to the government’s challenges.

Brittany Higgins, accused a more senior colleague of raping her in Parliament House in 2019, and three weeks after Mr. Porter was accused of committing rape when he was a teenager.

Mr. Porter has denied the allegation against him and resisted calls for an independent inquiry. Ms. Reynolds has apologized to Ms. Higgins for speaking with her about the alleged assault in the same room where it was said to have occurred, as well as for calling Ms. Higgins a “lying cow” after she went public with her allegations.

The reassignments are unlikely to tamp down the public outrage that has surged in recent weeks, after years in which complaints about Australia’s brutal culture of misogyny in politics were ignored or actively suppressed by the two major parties.

“death spiral.”

he had not read it. After the police dropped a criminal case against Mr. Porter, citing insufficient evidence from an incident alleged to have occurred 33 years ago, Mr. Morrison said the attorney general was still fit for the highest legal office in the country, despite the swirl of distrust surrounding him.

On March 4, when thousands of women protested sexual assault and sexism outside Parliament, Mr. Morrison refused to attend the rally. He later declared it a “triumph of democracy” that demonstrators had been able to gather without being “met with bullets” — a comment that only added more fuel to the public anger.

In recent days, Mr. Morrison finally seemed to recognize the severity of the problem his government was facing, but only after videos and photographs surfaced of male Liberal Party staffers masturbating onto the desks of female members of Parliament.

who filed a formal complaint against a colleague last week over a recent case of sexual harassment. “Everyone is on alert now and wondering: Where are we going from here?”

Jo Dyer, a friend of the woman who accused Mr. Porter, said she and many others would continue to push for an independent inquiry into the rape allegation, noting that changing Mr. Porter’s role did not address the larger question of whether he was fit for public office.

defamation claim against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation over its coverage of the rape allegation.

The prime minister said he had retained Mr. Porter in the cabinet because he was “a very capable minister.”

In a statement, Mr. Porter said he did not regret filing the defamation lawsuit, and would give his new portfolio “all the energy and commitment I have.”

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