A plenary session of the legislature on Wednesday passed the outline of an amendment bill on sex crimes listed in the Macau Penal Code. The government-initiated bill suggests a separate category for sexual harassment with the offence being listed as a semi-public crime.
A total of 29 lawmakers cast their votes, all of which were in favour of the bill. Three legislators were absent and, as is customary, the speaker of the legislature did not vote.
Introducing the bill in Wednesday’s plenum, Secretary for Administration and Justice Sonia Chan Hoi Fan said that the bill aimed to provide better protection for women and minors, and to enhance gender equality.
The bill suggests a separate category for sexual harassment. However, verbal and non-contact sexual harassment is excluded from the offence in the bill.
The bill proposes that sexual harassment be listed as a semi-public crime, which means that the law enforcement authorities can take action against the suspect only if the victim files a criminal complaint.
Currently, without sexual harassment listed in the Penal Code, people claiming sexual harassment has to take legal action against the suspect themselves and pay to hire a lawyer.
The bill suggests that a sexual harassment offender faces a prison term of up to one year.
The bill also proposes a separate category for procurement for prostitution involving a minor aged between 14 and 18, with the offence being listed as a public crime – allowing the police to investigate without the victim’s consent.
The bill proposes that such offenders be punished with up to four years behind bars.
The bill also suggests a separate category for child pornography, which prohibits the production, distribution, dissemination, import, export or sale of child pornography, with it being listed as a public crime. The bill proposes that the offender faces up to eight years behind bars.
In addition to the three new categories, the bill also proposes amendments to some other sex offences listed in the Macau Penal Code.
The bill proposes that a rapist can be either a man or a woman, and that forcing someone to perform oral sex should also be regarded as rape. Currently, the act of forcing someone to perform oral sex merely leads to a sexual coercion charge.
The bill also proposes that two offences – sexual coercion and sexual abuse of a person incapable of resistance – be changed from a semi-public crime, as it currently is, to a public crime.
The bill will be passed to the 3rd Standing Committee for article-by-article review, after which it will be returned to another plenum for its second debate and final vote.