What legal alterations have there been in China to strengthen women`s situation and how effective are they


Presentation / Essay (Pre-University), 2003

19 Pages, Grade: 1 (A)


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Structure:

A.Introduction

B. Main Part
-Presentation Outline
I. Baby girl`s situation before and at birth
1. Female Infanticide
a. historical situation
b. legal provisions
c. effects
2. sex-selective abortion
a. history
b. legal alterations
c. effects
II. Women`s situation in the private sphere
1. Women`s situation before marriage
a. historical situation
b. legal alterations
c. effects
2. Women and marriage itself
a. historical situation
b. legal alterations
c. effects
3. Women`s situation after marriage
a. historical situation
b. legal alterations
c. effects
4. Women and divorce
a. historical situation
b. legal alterations
c. effects
5. Women`s inheritance rights
a. historical situation
b. legal alterations
c. effects
6. Widows` situation
a. historical situation
b. legal alterations
c. effects
III. Women`s protection from sexual exploitation
1. old problems: parents “selling” their daughters
a. historical situation
b. legal alterations
c. effects
2. New problems: The resurgence of trafficking in women
a. historical situation
b. legal alterations
c. effects
IV. Women`s situation in the public sphere
1. Women`s education
a. historical situation
b. legal alterations
c. effects
2. Women at work
a. historical situation
b. legal alterations
c. effects
3. Women and politics
a. historical situation
b. legal alterations
c. effects

C. Conclusion

A.Introduction

Protect the interests of the youth, women and children – [..] help the youth and women to organize in order to participate on an equal footing in all work useful to the war effort and to social progress, ensure freedom of marriage and equality as between men and women,

"On Coalition Government" (April 24, 1945), Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 288.*

In order to build a great socialist society it is of the utmost importance to arouse the broad masses of women to join in productive activity. Men and women must reccive equal pay for equal work in production. Genuine equality between the sexes can only be realized in the process of the socialist transformation of society as a whole.

Introductory note to "Women Have Gone to the Labour Front" (1955), The Socialist Upsurge in China's Countryside, Chinese ed., Vol. I.

These two well-known Mao citations show very well that Chinese communism had ever since, beside its specific marxistic-leninistic aims, also fought for women`s rights. There had been a women`s rights movement in China since the middle of the 19th century, which fought against the Chinese traditions that suppressed women in many different ways. Yet, there had not been profound changes for a century, owed to different reasons. So it was the Communist government that should take the major steps leading to more gender equality in contemporary China. The PRC government tried to enforce women`s status through different means, but in this paper, it shall be focussed on the legal alterations that the Chinese government took since 1949 to improve women`s situation and on their actual effects on Chinese society.

B. main part

Presentation Outline:

In Ancient China, women were- at the latest since the Confucian renaissance during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) – subordinate to men in all spheres of life. They had to abide by the so-called “three obediences”, which meant that they were subordinate to their father before marriage, subordinate to their husband after marriage and subordinate to their son after their husband`s death. Women`s status in society was very low.

The Chinese women movement began with the “Taiping Tianguo” movement in the middle of the century. This rebellion promulgated equality among all human beings, but failed, as did the May 4th movement in 1919 which was also directed against the traditional patriarchal family structure .

The Chinese republic which was founded in 1911 had disappointed the Chinese suffragettes: the new constitution did not contain a clause that embodied equality between men and women. The 1931 family law of the Chinese republic improved women`s situation but never gained much influence, because “the Republican code was hardly implemented and internalized in the vastness of China”[1]. The reforms taken by the Jiangxi Province Soviet Government[2] also had no great influence on women`s status, as they covered only a small part of China and often failed in implementation[3]. So this essay shall focus on the various legal alterations taken by the PRC Communist government since 1949, and, in order to make them easier to survey, it shall explain the changes in Chinese women`s situations along four big sections:

Baby girls`situation before and at birth, Women`s situation in the private field, women`s protection from sexual exploitation and women`s situation in the public field

I. Baby girls`situation before and at birth

In China, discrimination against women starts even before they have become women: female infanticide and sex-selective abortions of femal fetusses exist, child mortality is higher amongst baby girls than amongst baby boys.

1. female infanticide

a. historical situation

Female infanticide has always existed in traditional Chinese society due to the Chinese model of family organization, which “was patriarchal, patrilineal and patrilocal”[4]. Only boys could continue the line of ancestors, and only boys provided old-age pension for their parents because they stayed at home wheras girls were “lost” for their family when they married and became a member of their husband`s family. Girls were considered to be less worth than boys, and so female infanticide was a common practice, though it had been declared illegal by the legislations of many Chinese Dynasties.[5]

b. legal provisions

The 1950 marriage law stated in Article 13: “infant drowning and similar criminal acts shall be strictly prohibited”.It also prohibited maltreatment amongst family members. In the 1980 Marriage law, this was amended by the prohibition of deserting of infants. Additionally, the 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests states in Article 35: “It is prohibited to drown, forsake, or cruelly injure or kill baby girls.”

c. effects

There aren`t any statistics about the number of female babies killed after their birth.

But the Chinese census dates are quite revealing : In 2002, “more than 116 male births were recorded for every 100 female births […]The natural ratio should be 105-107 males per 100 females.”[6]

This is alarming, but experts argue that the great number of “missing girls” is mainly caused by other phenomenons than female infanticide: "sex-differential underreporting of births and induced abortion after prenatal sex determination together explain almost all of the increase in the reported sex ratio at birth during the late 1980s," and thus "the omission ... of victims of female infanticide cannot be a significant factor."[7] "Female infanticide, notorious in China's past as a primitive method of sex selection, is now thought to be infrequent."[8]

A victory for the Communist party, as it seems; but today, baby girls face other difficulties: They are aborted before being born.

2. sex-selective abortion

a. History

Sex-selective abortion is a new development in China. It has been made possible by the Family Planning policy of the Chinese Government due to which the state provides cost-free abortions, that are no longer ostracized.[9] The problem has also been enforced by the one-child-policy promulgated by the state in 1979. If parents can only have one child, then it should be a boy. An abortion is an easy way to get rid of an unwanted girl. This results in a great male population surplus, as seen above, which poses major problems to Chinese society.

b. legal alterations:

The 1995 Law on Maternal and infant health care strictly forbids sex identification of the fetus and establishes administrative sanctions for medical personnel undertaking sex identification.[10] Moreover, the 2001 Population and Family Planning Law clearly states in Article 35: “Use of ultrasonography or other techniques to identify fetal gender for non-medical purposes is strictly prohibited. Sex-selective pregnancy termination for non-medical purposes is strictly prohibited.” Anyone who violates this provision has to pay high fines if he gained money by his violation of the law.

c. effects

The situation has not improved; as the Chinese male surplus is increasing, it is very probable that the number of female fetusses being aborted is increasing, too.[8]

Anyway, it won`t be possible to eradicate sex-selective abortions simply by prohibiting them. Efforts can only be made by raising the worth of girls for the parents, which is done through many other regulations (see II 5. inheritance).

II. Women`s situation in the private sphere

In Ancient China, the private sphere was the only sphere that women knew. The ideal woman would not appear in the public.

The private sphere was, and still is today, dominated by the family, in which the female was always subordinate to the male (see presentation outline). So this section of the essay is mainly thought to discuss women`s role in the family.

1. Women`s situation before marriage

a. historical situation

“Before marriage”, in Ancient China, this referred only to the childhood of a girl, because everyone had to marry, usually at the age of 15. Premarital sex was not allowed, chastity had to be kept.

b. legal alterations

The Marriage Law of May 1, 1950 instituted “a marriage system based on the free choice of both partners” and prohibited interference from any third party into the freedom of marriage. Additionally, the 1980 Marriage Law encouraged late marriage and late childbirth in Article 5.

c. Effects

Today, nobody can be forced to marry, but nevertheless marriage is still an obligation for most Chinese.[11] However, in the city, successful unmarried women can be found.

Premarital sex, though it undeniably exists (among 100 girls aged 15-19, 17 births occurred in 2000[12] ) is still a taboo theme for many Chinese. Yet there are more and more young couples that cohabit.[13]

2. Women and marriage itself

a. historical situation

In Ancient China, all marriages were arranged, one could not choose his or her partner freely. The dowry was very high. With the marriage, a woman lost her family, as she had to become a member of her husband`s family and move to them, according to the patrilocal tradition. Due to the principle of exogamy, a woman`s husband could not come from the same village and so she would be divided from her parents simply through the distance between them. Once married, a woman could no longer use her surname, but would use that of her husband instead.

b. legal alterations

As already explained in II 1 b above, the 1950 marriage law established a marriage system based on free choice of both partners. The 2001 marriage Law contains a provision that, “In the case of a marriage made under coercion, the coerced party may make a request to the marriage registration office or the people`s court for the dissolution of the marriage contract […]within one year as of the marriage registration date”[14] The exaction of gifts in connection with marriage was prohibited by the 1950 Marriage Law. A clear attack on the patrilocal system are Article 9 of the 1981 Marriage Law: “After a marriage has been registered, the woman may become a member of the man's family or vice versa, depending on the agreed wishes of the two parties.” and Article 14: “Both husband and wife shall have the right to use his or her own surname and given name.”

c. effects

Marriages that are based on the choice of both partners are getting more and more common. A recent survey of Beijing Review notes that 60% of young adults now choose their own mates, and only a small percentage of marriages are arranged. [15] However, more and more cases of women coerced into a marriage are occurring (see III 2a) .The patrilocal residence of married couples, though “no longer mandatory” [16] , is still the common practice, especially in rural China, and also the old tradition of exogamy is disappearing very slowly, [17] with everything resulting from them (see I, II 5 inheritance).

However, the practice of dowry has nearly disappeared. [18]

3. Women`s family situation after marriage

a. historical situation

In her new family, the wife often had the lowest status of all family members, the relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law was often very bad, as the daughter-in-law had to be obede to her parents-in-law as to her natural parents. So, the daughter-in-law was often persecuted by her mother-in-law. [19]

The woman was regarded as possession of her husband. Her duty was to give birth to many sons; if she failed to give birth to a son, her husband could apply for a divorce (see II 4a), thus throwing his wife into poverty and shame, or he often took a concubine to bear children for him who shared equal legal status with all children from his wife. Women were often maltreated and faced domestic violence.

b. legal alterations

The 1950 Marriage Law gave husband and wife equal status in the family and equal rights in disposition over their jointly owned property and outlawed bigamy. Moreover, the 1980 Marriage Law prohibited maltreatment of family members. In 2001, it was amended with several new articles, among them the prohibition of cohabitation of one partner with any third party and the prohibition of domestic violence. If one partner commits these acts or maltreats a family member, divorce shall be granted and the non-fault party shall receive compensation. [20] (see II 4b).

In the case of domestic violence, the victim can make a request to neighborhood or villager committees which shall offer mediation or stop the wrongdoer. [21]

Besides, the 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests states in Article 45 that “ Both parents enjoy equal guardianship over their minor children”and in Article 47 it makes clear that “[women] have the freedom of choosing not to bear children. Furthermore, the 2001 Population and Family Planning contains a clause that prohibits “Discrimination against and maltreatment of women who give birth to baby girls or who suffer from infertility”.

c. effects

Today, there is surely more equality in marriage, but this is not only owed to the legal alterations taken by the Chinese government but also to other reasons, e.g. that women contribute to the household`s income (see IV 2). However, the new regulations concerning marriage have improved women`s post-marital situation to a great extent, above all by giving them the possibility to divorce (see II 4).

The relations between daughter-in-law and mother-in-law have become less strained[22], concubinate has disappeared, but at the same time “extramarital affairs are widespread [due to the raising wealth]:20 % of Chinese married men have sexual relations outside marriage.”[23].

Domestic violence remains a big problem: According to surveys carried out by the All-China Women`s Federation, it occurs in 30% of Chinese families[24], among them families of all social classes[24]. Although domestic violence is a reason for a divorce, many women do not take the steps against their husbands that they could take according to law, for many reasons. The old belief that it is a woman`s own fault when she is victimized and that the keeping together of the family is more important also blocks them when they search help.[24] Nevertheless, domestic violence has finally been adressed by law and been recognized as a problem, the key to improving the situation.

Discrimination against women that are infertile, do not want to give birth to children or give birth to baby girls still often occurs, mainly in rural areas. There are even reports that women have been sold as slaves by their husbands because they gave birth to baby girls.[25] Yet in urban areas, more and more women that do not want to have children, mainly for career reasons[26] and DINK (=Double

Income No Kids) families can be found.[27] Here, the preference for boys is not as strong as in rural areas (see II 5c). According to recent surveys, “80% of Chinese city residents […] do not have any particular preference for boys or girls”.[28]

4. Women and divorce

a. historical situation

Since the time of the Han-Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), only the husband could apply for a divorce. This was restricted to severals situations, but in reality, a husband could easily divorce if he wanted to. A divorced woman had no right to any of the property her husband possessed nor did she get the children. Her only possibility often was to go back to her family where she was not appreciated, as the family had to nourish an additional eater now and because a divorced woman was considered dishonourable.[29]

b. legal alterations

The 1931 Marriage Law of the Republic made it possible for both sides to end a marriage and instituted 10 reasons for a divorce. However, as long as women had no possibility to earn their living outside the family, a divorce was impossible for most of them. Moreover, the Republican Marriage Law adjudged the children to the father, if this was not clearly regulated otherwise.

The 1950 PRC Marriage Law also instituted the possibilty to divorce, if both parties consented. The current Marriage Law further improves women`s situation at divorce. Divorce is possible through consent of both parties or through the court, if mediation has failed. The most important reasons for the granting of a divorce through the court are: the lack of mutual affection, cohabitation of one party with any third one, domestic violence or maltreatment, and separation which lasts two full years. In the case of domestic violence, maltreatment or cohabitation, the non-fault party even has a right on compensation.[30] In the case of divorce, the joint property (which was defined more clearly through the amendments made in 2001[31] ) shall be subject to an agreement made between the two parties. If they fail, “the people`s court shall make a judgment in consideration of the actual circumstance of the property and on the principle of caring for the rights and interests of the wife and the child or children”. [32]

“After divorce, whether the children are put in the custody of the father or the mother, they shall remain the children of both parents.”[33] A breast-fed child shall remain in custody of the mother, other cases shall be decided by the court “in accordance with the rights and interests of the child and the actual conditions of both parents.”[33] Whoever receives custody over the children, the other party still has the right to visit them, according to Article 38.

Moreover, the 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests adresses the housing problem that many women face at divorce: If women and husband live in a jointly-owned resp. jointly-rented house, the wife`s housing problem should be solved “with the principle of giving favorable consideration to the rights and interests of the wife and children”, “ the husband should do all he can to help the wife solve her housing problem, if they currently live in a house provided by the husband's organization. “[34] An important regulation for rural areas is paragraph 30: “A woman's responsibility fields, fields for growing grain rations and land for housing construction remain to be protected after she gets married or divorced.”

Furthermore, this Law states that in the question of custody over minor children at divorce, the wife`s demands shall be preferred “if she has lost child-bearing ability because of sterilization or other reasons”[35], a situation occurring more often than one may think, as the female sterilization rate in China is 38.1 %.[36]

c. effects

The divorce rate in China is constantly increasing since the open-up policy in the late seventies: “some 2 million couples are expected to join the ranks of the divorced every year”[37]. “The number of divorces almost quadrupled from 319,000 in 1979 to 1.21 million in 2000”[38], “the national divorce rate is about 10 percent which is [still] lower than the world average”[38] More than 70% of all divorce applications are handed in by women[39]. Reasons are that the husband has had an extramarital affair[39] (which are getting more and more common, see II 3c) , or domestic violence (according to statistics, 60% of the divorces are due to violence in families[40] ) or even an unsatisfying sex life[41]. Women`s expectations on marriage have risen, and an increasing number of them takes divorce as a possibility to end a marriage that they are dissatisfied with or in that they are faced by domestic violence.[38]

In urban areas, divorces have become totally normal[39] and are “generally treated with tolerance and understanding.”[37] Most women have a job and can so afford being divorced.

Marriage contracts are becoming more common, with about 1% of couples having a contract[42], making the disposition of property after a divorce easier.

In rural areas, the divorce rate is lower.[39] Here, women also often face the problem that they often loose their land rights at divorce in contrary to the Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests (see above), having to leave their husband`s family`s land and not obtaining a new share from her own family`s land.[43] (see II 5c).

Receiving the custody over their children is now easier for women. Indeed the Marriage Law states that the custody should be decided upon “in accordance with […] the actual conditions of both parents”, which is an advantage for the husbands, as their earning is usually higher than their wives`, but this is often balanced by the condition that the “rights and interests of the child” should be taken into consideration.

However, “according to a Chinese legal scholar who clerked for a judge, 70 to 80 percent of divorce cases were supposed to be dealt with through mediation and judges always preferred to have divorce petitions withdrawn, which would be considered "successful mediation." In such circumstances, a woman may be put under tremendous pressure to accept a settlement which is not advantageous to her.”[44]

5. women`s inheritance rights

a. historical situation

In History, daughters had no possibility to inherit their parents`property (widows`inheritance rights see II 6) . After marriage they left their parents`home and became a member of their husbands`family (the so-calle patrilocal system). It was the son (and his wife) who stayed with the parents and cared for them when they got old, due to which the son inherited everything.

b. legal alterations

There was no law of Succession until 1985 because until the Reform Era, there had been no individual property and thus no need for a law of Succession.

The Law of Succession gave men and women equal rights to inherit.[45] It stated that “Widowed daughters-in-law or sons-in-law who have made the predominant contributions in maintaining their parents-in-law shall, in relationship to their parents-in-law, be regarded as successors first in order”[46]. In ancient China, they had had no right to inherit. A provision that often helps discriminating women in the order of inheritance, though this is surely not the aim of the law (see below) is Article 13: “successors who have made the predominant contributions in maintaining the decedent or have lived with the decedent may be given a larger share.” As long as the patrilocal system stays, daughters that move away at marriage will be disadvantaged by this provision.

So, in this context, other regulations have to be named that attack the reason for discriminating against daughters`rights of inheritance, namely the 1981 Marriage Law.

It states that “After a marriage has been registered, the woman may become a member of the man's family or vice versa, depending on the agreed wishes of the two parties”, a clear attack on the patrilocal system. Furthermore, it emphasizes that daughters and sons have to care for their parents.[47]

c.effects

In contemporary China, children still are the only old-age pension for most old people, making it self-evident that the child who cares for his parents should receive the heritage. Meanwhile, the old tradition of patrilocal residence, though “no longer mandatory”, is still the common practice, especially in rural China (see I 2c), leading to discrimination against daughters in the proper order of inheritance, justified by Article 13 of the Law of Succession (see above).

Yet in urban areas, parents see their daughters as equally responsible for their upbringing and as a result of this, daughters have good chances to inherit. [48]

6. Widows`situation

a. historical situation

According to the “three obediences”, a widow had to be subordinate to her son, but in reality, this often was only theory. If the son was minor, widows often administered the property for him until he was old enough to take responsibility.

So, if a widow had a son, she was in a quite powerful position.

Morally, widows were not allowed to remarry; they should keep chastity up to their death. It was especially honoured by society if a widow committed suicide.

As a result of this, young widows often had big problems. They often fell into poverty and thus were forced into prostitution. To avoid this, the only possibilities they had were to go back to their family where they- as an additional eater- were not appreciated if the family was not rich. Many young widows wanted to remarry, but this was often not accepted by society and her second husband would be of lower social status, as every man wanted to marry a virgin and not a “second-hand” widow[49].

b. legal alterations

The 1950 Marriage Law emphatically allowed the remarriage of widows. Moreover, the current Marriage Law contains a provision that prohibits children to interfere in their parents`post-nuptial life and reiterates their commitment to maintain their parents after a changement in their matrimonial relationship.[50]

It also states that husband and wife shall have the right to inherit each other`s property. In addition to this, the 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests makes clear that “Widowed women have the right to dispose of their inherited property, and no one is permitted to interfere with the disposal”, as does the 1985 Law of Succession in its Article 30.

c. effects

Although it is now illegal for children to impede in their widowed mother`s remarriage, among others by threatening that they won`t maintain their mother anymore if she remarries, this practice still goes on.

Although widowed elderly women inherit a share of their husband`s property, together with the children and her husband`s parents[51], they often face poverty,[52] also because the pension age for women is 55 and in most cases, they have no old-age pension. So many widows wish to remarry, but the likelihood of a successful remarriage for elderly people is not high.[53] Moreover, the traditional view that a widow should not remarry has not disappeared totally.[54]

Thus, today, 6% of the Chinese population over 15 are widowed, whereas only 1.8% are remarried (including those who have remarried after a divorce).[55]

III. Women`s protection from (sexual) exploitation

As soon as women enjoy a low status in society, they are always in danger of being treated as an object and being sexually exploited. This was and still is true in China.

1. old problems: parents “selling” their daughters

a. historical situation

Many girls from lower social classes were given away for adoption as a “child bride”[56], as a household slave, were sold to a brothel or sold as a concubine into a rich house, where they would be superior to the wife of the (often elderly) man in whose possession they now were .

This practice was very common in ancient China, as many families were poor and girls were not considered to be very worthy.[57]

b. legal alterations

The Republican government already considered the concubinate a “feudal relict”. It did not appear as an institution in the 1931 Republican Marriage Law, thus loosing its prior quasi-legal status.

The 1950 Marriage Law prohibited concubinate, women purchase and the adoption of girls as future daughter-in-law. Prostitution was also prohibited by the PRC government.

c. effects

Concubinate and child bride adoption have (nearly) disappeared. Prostitution also seemed to be defeated, yet since persons gained more individual freedom in the Reform Era, it is on the raise again (see also below).

2. New problems: the resurgence of women trafficking

a. situation

Since the Reform Era, women trafficking and prostitution, already thought to have disappeared, are on the raise again. “Figures released for 1993 and 1994 reported 24,751 women and 2,731 children rescued and 49,839 traffickers arrested. The total number of women abducted and sold may be double the official numbers, according to one Chinese journalist who covered women's issues for a number of years.”[58] The slave trade “has been reported in more than 20 out of China`s 30 provinces and autonomous regions since the early 1980`s”. It is “particularly rifle in villages in mountaineous and remote rural areas”[59], where it is cheaper for the peasants to buy a bride than to bear “the rising costs of the traditional rural wedding”[59]Other reasons are the big male surplus in China, which is especially high in rural areas (see also I 1c). As a result of this, women are scarce in many areas in China and men have to buy themselves brides.

“In the slave trade, the commission of violence is a daily event. Many women were victims of kidnapping, rape, sexual slavery, psychological humiliation, physical torture or even mutiliation and murder.”[59]

b. legal alterations

The 1991 decision of the Standing Committee of the NPC called for criminalizing abduction for the sale of women and children, kidnapping of women and children and criminalizing the purchase of abducted and kidnapped women. This led to the amendment of the 1979 Criminal Law of the PRC in 1997. It institutes severe punishments for women abduction and kidnapping of women and for the purchase of abducted or kidnapped women (at minimum 5 years, up to death penalty).[60] Moreover, the 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests, apart from prohibiting abduction and sale of women as well as buying abducted women, outlaws discrimination against abducted, sold or kidnapped women that return to their homes.[61]

c. effects

Up to now, there is no radical success in the fight against women trafficking, but undoubtedly it is fought by the PRC government. However, many local officials “considered the men who bought women the legitimate owner” and would, for instance, “still issue a marriage certificate”[59]. Women trafficking remains a big problem and destroys the lives of many women. They are still often discriminated when returning to their village after they have been abducted, according to the old thinking: “It is a woman`s own fault when she is victimized.”[62]

IV.Women`s situation in the Public sphere

In Ancient China, the ideal woman would not appear in public. Women were considered to be “nei ren”, which meant that they were responsible for the “inside”, the household, whereas men were considered to be “wai ren”, which meant that they cared for the “outside”.

1. Women`s education

a. historical situation

The historic female education was aimed at preparing women for their life as wife and mother. “Hence, what women learned in those days amounted to nothing more than cookery, sewing, knitting, cotton-spinning and housekeeping.”[63] As a result of this, most Chinese women were illiterate. The first girl schools appeared in 1900, the first female students applied at Beijing University in 1920, but these were mostly exceptions.

b. legal alterations

The Chinese Constitution grants women “equal rights with men in all spheres of life, in political, economic, cultural, social and family life.” The Marriage Law of the PRC states that “Both husband and wife shall have the freedom […]to study […]; neither party may restrict or interfere with the other party. In addition to this, the 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests requires schools and other relevant institutions not to discriminate against girls,[64] obligates parents or guardians “to ensure that female children or juveniles receive compulsory education”; if they fail, “local people's governments will take effective measures to make those parents or guardians comply.”[65] Furthermore, it states that all levels of people`s government should continue in their fight against female illiteracy.[66]

c. effects

Women`s education in China is constantly improving. In 2000, the net rate of female students in primary schools was 99.07%, 0.87% more than in 1995.[67] When it comes to higher education, female students are getting rarer: At colleges and universities, women make up 41% of students (1995: 35.4%)[67] These numbers may sound good, but women`s education is still worse than men`s. Girls constitute the majority of dropouts and non-enrolled children.[68] This leads to a high gap between male and female adult illiteracy. “The sex differential in rates lessened, but in 2001, [with 22.8% of women over 15 being illiterate] a woman was three times as likely to be illiterate as a man.”[69]

“In the 1990s, it has become a common practice for supposedly state-funded Chinese schools to charge higher and higher fees.[…] Colleges nationwide officially began to charge tuition in 1994”[70], with bad consequences:

“Although there are some reports that female university students are receiving more scholarships than males, overall the growing inequality of the Chinese education system has had a negative effect on women.”[70]

2. Women at work

a. historical situation

In ancient China, there were only very few female occupations, as for example midwifery, matchmaker or nun (and, of course, prostitute). Women were considered to do nothing else but the household. Because of the common practice of footbinding, which crippled women`s feet since the age of about seven, women could hardly walk and were restricted to the household. If the foot bandages were very tight, a woman could not even run the household; this had to be done by servants. Of course, in reality, only the rich could afford to waste a women`s working power by totally crippling her feet;[71] ” most poor peasant women in most parts of China probably worked in agriculture and subsidiary occupations fairly regularly”.[72]

b. legal alterations

The Chinese constitution grants women equal rights in economic life and “equal pay for equal work”. The PRC government always encouraged women to participate in production. During the Collectivism Era, cafeterias and childcare facilities were instituted and the 1950 Land Reform gave equal shares to men and women. Some complain that the return to the family as basic unit of production after 1980 has hampered gender equality.

The 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests contains a number of provisions aimed at outlawing discrimination against women in employment: “ no unit should refuse to hire women, or set a higher threshold for hiring women on the sheer basis of sex“,”no discrimination against women is allowed when it comes to promoting a higher position or grade and assessing special skills or duties” and: “No unit is allowed to dismiss female workers or unilaterally terminate a labor contract on the grounds of marriage, pregnancy, maternity leave or lactation.”[73] Furthermore, women in the PRC have a right on special protection during menstruation, purpureum and lactation as well as a right on 90 days of payed maternity leave.[74] The PRC Labor law also prohibits to engage women for work which is too hard for them.[75]

c. effects

Today, China would be unimaginable without women who are working: 45% of total labor force are women[76], contributing to 40% of household income.

Yet, women are far away from reaching equality with men in the field of work.

“A recent survey on the social status of Chinese women shows the income gap between males and females has widened by 7.4 % in cities and 19.4 % in the countryside, compared with 1990.”[77] “Statistics show the average annual income of working women in Chinese cities stood at 7,409.7 yuan (US$892.65) in 1999,only 70.1 percent of what was paid to males. Over the same period the annual income of women farmers was 2,368.7 yuan (US$285.3), some 59.6 percent of male farmers' income.”[77]

“Furthermore, a government survey of 144 TVEs [=township-and-village enterprises] in four coastal provinces discovered that […] most of the enterprises surveyed lacked women's washrooms and nursing rooms, and granted workers less time for maternity leave than is required by the regulations. The report notes that women have also suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their employers, and that such victims generally have no way to seek redress.”[78] “Women also face difficulties getting jobs in state enterprises”[78], which are the only enterprises that guarantee old-age pension.

Undoubtedly, women are the losers of the Economic Reforms: As the social collective services ended, many had to bear more household responsibility in addition to their work. Even today, most Chinese men are not willing to help their wives with the housework. “Over 75 percent of household chores are done by wives.”[79]

Women are always the first to be fired (the female unemployment rate is higher than the male one[80] ) and the last to be hired[81]: A 1995 job advertisement study in Shanghai even found that one quarter of all advertisements was limited strictly to men.[82]

One reason for this dicrimination is the special protection that women are entitled to during menstruation, pregnancy and breast-feeding period: Although the relevant regulations are thought to improve women`s situation, they have the result “that many employers discriminate against women to avoid taking on these burdens”[82] The double burden of household and work that most Chinese women have to shoulder is another reason for employers to discriminate against women: They hold that those women cannot concentrate fully on their work and have less power of endurance.[83]

In rural areas, a new development can be seen: “women work on the farm, men work off the farm”[84] “Statistics show that rural women currently make up 65.6 percent of agricultural labor”[85] ; while men find higher-paying jobs outside the agrarian sector[86] or are “migrating to urban areas to find a better standard of living”[85], women remain to take care of agricultural production. Although “female farmers seem to be content with the current division of labour”[84], this is certainly no step in the direction of real gender equality.

Despite this division of labour in rural areas, most rural Chinese continue to consider women`s land rights to belong to their families and women often do not realize their rights in disposition over property jointly owned with their husbands, given to them by the Marriage Law.[87]

3. women and politics

a. historical situation

In imperial China, only men exercised power and only men could become officials.Even the powerful widow of the Chinese emperor, Ci-Xi, who led China inofficially during the end of the Qing dynasty, always had to hide behind a curtain because she was a woman.

b. legal alterations

The Constitution grants men and women equal rights in political life and requires the state to train and select cadres from among women. In adddition to this, the Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests states that “the National People`s Congress and all levels of local people's congress should have adequate numbers of women deputies, and should gradually raise the ratios of women deputies in them.” Moreover, “the state should actively cultivate and promote women cadres”.

c.effects

Despite these regulations, women are still very underrepresented in Chinese politics. At the Ninth NPC, the percentage of female deputies was only 21.81%, the percentage of female deputies at the ninth Congress of the Communist Party of China only reached 15.54%[88]. The more important a committee or a leading position is, the less women can be found in it: In the Standing Committees of the NPC and the Communist Party of China (which are far more important), the percentage of women amounts to only 12.69% resp. 8.97%. The proportion of women in the leading bodies of Province, Prefecture and County in the Past Five Years is similar: although gradually rising, it only reached 9% in 2001.[88]
At the controls, women still have to be searched with a magnifying glass: The only woman on the politburo is Wu Yi. There are only four women being full members of the central committee, and 194 men.

C. Conclusion

It is out of question that the position of Chinese women has been strengthened to a very great extent during the last 50 years. Yet, it is also out of question that they are far away from having reached real gender equality. To reach this, legal alterations do not suffice, as this paper has shown in many ways. China`s women have to bridge the gap between legal provisions and reality. Old traditions and views cannot be changed only by altering the law, and they won`t disappear over night.

To continue faster on their way towards real gender equality, China`s women will have to become more proactive and organize themselves in a stronger way. Society can only be changed profoundly out of itself; a government alone will never manage to do this.

Literaturverzeichnis:

www.china.org.cn

www.chinatoday.com.cn

www.ilo.org

www.worldbank.org

www.womenofchina.com.cn

http://english.eastday.com

http://english.peopledaily.com.cn

www.faz.net

http://iso.hrichina.org

www.night.net

www.stats.gov.cn

www.washingtonpost.com

http://web.amnesty.org

www.gendercide.org

http://fpeng.peopledaily.com.cn

www.theguardian.co.uk

www.aic.gov.au

www.chinadaily.com.cn

www.xinhuanet.com

www.qis.net/chinalaw

www.nzz.ch

Elke Wandel: „Frauenleben im Reich der Mitte. Chinesische Frauen in Geschichte und Gegenwart“. Rowohlt Verlag, November 1987

Olga Pochagina: „New Version of the PRC Law on marriage”, in: Far Eastern Affairs 2002, Vol. 30, N4, p.25-39

Steffen Rink: Stichwort China; Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, München 1994

Wong Yin Lee:” Women`s education in Traditional and modern China”, in: Women`s History Review, Volume 4, Number 3, 1995

Jennifer Duncan, Li Ping: “Women and Land Tenure in China: A study of Women`s Land Rights in Dongfang County, Hainan Province”, April 2001; rdi reports on Foreign Aid and Development #110

Lucien Bianco: China; Verlagsgruppe Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach, 1997

Gundula Linck: „Frau und Familie in China“ - München: Beck, 1988

Yin-Ching Chen: “Civil Law Development: China and Taiwan”, in: Stanford Jourmal of East Asian Affairs, Spring 2002, Volume 2, p. 8-14

Monica Das Gupta et al.:”State policies and women`s autonomy in China, the Republic of Korea, and India 1950-2000: Lessons from contrasting experiences”; December 2000, The World Bank – Development Research Group/ Poverty Reduction and Economic Management: Policy Research on Gender and Development; Working Paper Series No. 16

[...]


[1] See: Yin-Ching Chen: “Civil Law development in China and Taiwan”, p.9; in: Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs, Spring 2002, Vol.2, p.8-14

[2] the later Communist Government of the PRC when it controlled only a small part of China

[3] see: Jennifer Duncan, Li Ping: “Women and land tenure in China, rdi report”, April 2001, p.7-8

[4] see: Olga Pochagina: “New Version of the PRC Law on marriage”, p. 25; in: Far Eastern Affairs 2002, Vol. 30, N4, p.25-39

[5] see Bernice J. Lee, “Female Infanticide in China”, in: Richard W. Guisso/Stanley Johannesen (Hg.), Women In China. Current Directions in Historical Scholarship, Youngstown, N.Y., 1981, S. 164

[6] John Gittings: „Growing sex imbalance shocks China“; in: The Guardian, May 13, 2002

[7] Zeng et al: »Causes and Implications », p.289

8 see: John Gittings: “Growing sex imbalance in China”, in: The Guardian, May 13, 2002

[9] see: Elke Wandel: „Frauenleben im Reich der Mitte“,Hamburg November 1987, p.226

[10] Law of the PRC on Maternal and Infant health care, article 32, 37

[11] see: „The better educated prefer marriage – survey shows“ in China Daily, May 8, 2002 and “Youngsters still cherish marriage” in China Daily, February 6, 2002

[12] Worldbank Gender Statistics 2000, http://genderstats.worldbank.org

[13] Chen Xinxin: „Ehe und Familie in China-auf dem Land und in der Stadt“ from. www.chinatoday.com

[14] 2001 Marriage Law of the PRC, Article 11

[15] „Insight into Women`s Marital Status: Past and Present” from: www.night.net

[16] Olga Pochagina: “New Version of the PRC Law on marriage”, p. 28; in: Far Eastern Affairs 2002, Vol. 30, N4, p.25-39

[17] see: Lucien Bianco: „China“, Frankreich 1999, p. 38

[18] see: Elke Wandel: „Frauenleben im Reich der Mitte“,Hamburg November 1987, p.213

[19] see: Elke Wandel: „Frauenleben im Reich der Mitte“,Hamburg November 1987, p. 113-119

[20] 2001 Marriage Law of the PRC, articles 3, 32, 46

[21] 2001 Marriage Law of the PRC, article 43

[22] see: „Domestic Battlefield“, in: Shanghai Star, 6.3.2003

[23] Olga Pochagina: “New Version of the PRC Law on marriage”, p. 28; in: Far Eastern Affairs 2002, Vol. 30, N4, p.25-39

[24] see: „Educated Women also face Domestic Violence”in: China Daily, February 22, 2002

[25] Xin Ren: „Violence against Women under China`s economic modernization. Resurgence of Women trafficking in China”, from: www.aic.gov.au

[26] see: „Women face Dilemma on childbearing“ www.eastday .com, 12.3.2001

[27] see: „Childless couples“, in: Shanghai Star, March 31, 2003

[28] Olga Pochagina: “New Version of the PRC Law on marriage”, p. 28; in: Far Eastern Affairs 2002, Vol. 30, N4, p.25-39

[29] see: Elke Wandel: „Frauenleben im Reich der Mitte“,Hamburg November 1987, p.167-171

[30] 1981 Marriage Law of the PRC amended in 2001, article 46

[31] see: 1981 Marriage Law of the PRC amended in 2001, articles 17-19

[32] see: 1981 Marriage Law of the PRC amended in 2001, article 39

[33] 1981 Marriage Law of the PRC amended in 2001, article 36

[34] 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests, article 44

[35] 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests, article 46

[36] see: „More Sexual Equality in Procreation“, Xinhua News Agency December11, 2002

[37] “Divorce rate in China will increase”, in: People`s daily, April21, 2002

[38] „More Women opt to end unhappy marriage“, China Daily, June 5, 2002

[39] „Divorce in Modern China“, NY Times, August 22, 1994

[40] see: Olga Pochagina: “New Version of the PRC Law on marriage”, p. 30; in: Far Eastern Affairs 2002, Vol. 30, N4, p.25-39

[41] „Sex: Reason for a lawsuit“, in: www.chinatoday.com

[42] “More Chinese Adopt Antemarital Property Notarization”, People`s daily online, December12, 2000

[43] see: Jennifer Duncan, Li Ping: “Women and land tenure in China, rdi report”, April 2001,p. 36-37

[44] “The property of men: The trafficking and domestic abuse of women”, China Rights Forum, Fall 1995

[45] 1985 Law of Succession, Article 9; http://iso.hrichina.org

[46] 1985 Law of Succession, Article 12

[47] 1981 Marriage Law, Article 21

[48] see: Olga Pochagina: “New Version of the PRC Law on marriage”, p. 28; in: Far Eastern Affairs 2002, Vol. 30, N4, p.25-39

[49] see: Elke Wandel: „Frauenleben im Reich der Mitte“,Hamburg November 1987, p.174-182

[50] 1981 Marriage Law, amended in 2001, article 30

[51] 1985 PRC Law of Succession, Article 10

[52] see: “The Worldbank Activities and Position on Aging”, Washington DC, 2001; (http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/ageing/worldbank200106.htm)

[53] “Marriages of elderly women: Turbulence amid stability”, in: www.chinatoday.com

[54] see: Elke Wandel: „Frauenleben im Reich der Mitte“,Hamburg November 1987, p.223

[55] „Bevölkerungsstatistik 2001“, from: www.stats.gov.cn

[56] „Child brides“ were adopted by a family when they were still babies and then raised till they were old enough to marry one of their stepbrothers. They were very often maltreated. In ancient China, this practice occurred very often (especially in the south), because dowry was very high – adopting a little girl was much more convenient – and the family that gave away the little girl did not have to bear the costs for raising the girl. Very often, two girls were exchanged between two families, so that both had a future daughter-in-law.

[57] See: Elke Wandel: „Frauenleben im Reich der Mitte“,Hamburg November 1987, p.153-159

[58] “The property of men: The trafficking and domestic abuse of women. The Trafficking and sale of women”, China Rights Forum, Fall 1995; http://iso.hrichina.org

[59] Xin Ren: „Violence against Women under China`s economic modernization. Resurgence of Women trafficking in China”, from: www.aic.gov.au

[60] see: 1979 Criminal Law of the PRC, amended in 1997, articles 239-241

[61] see: 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests, article 36

[62] see: “The property of men: The trafficking and domestic abuse of women. Discrimination against trafficking victims”, China Rights Forum, Fall 1995; http://iso.hrichina.org

[63] Wong Yin Lee: “Women`s Education in Traditional and Modern China”, p- 345-346; in: Women`s History Review, Volume 4, Number 3, 1995, p.345-367

[64] 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests, article 15

[65] 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests, article 17

[66] see: 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests, article 18

[67] see: www.womenofchina.com.cn/files/statistics/main.htm

[68] see: Mark Goellner: „Unequal opportunities: As school fees rise, more children are sent to work”, in:China Rights Forum, Spring 1996; http:iso.hrichina.org

[69] see: ILO: 2001-2002 Key Indicators of the Labour Market (Geneva, 2001); www.ilo.org/kilm

[70] Liu Ping:“Education for all? Escalating fees cut off equal access to schools”, in: China Rights Forum, Spring 1996; http://iso.hrichina.org

[71] see: Elke Wandel: „Frauenleben im Reich der Mitte“,Hamburg November 1987, p.52-55

[72] see: Jennifer Duncan, Li Ping: “Women and land tenure in China, rdi report”, April 2001,p. 7

[73] 1992 Law Safeguarding Women`s rights and interests, articles 22, 24-26

[74] see: 1979 Labor Law of the PRC, amended in 1997, sections 60-63

[75] see: 1979 Labor Law of the PRC, amended in 1997, section 59

[76] see: Worldbank Genderstatistics 2001, Labor Force; http://genderstats.worldbank.org

[77] „Survey finds growing male/female income gap“, in: Xinhua News agency, January 24, 2002

[78] “Women Workers:The unofficial report”, published by the China Labour and Education Centre, reviewed by Justin Yap for China Rights Forum, Winter 1995; http://iso.hrichina.org

[79] „Survey: Wives undertake most of the homework”, in: www.eastday.com, 27.9.2002

[80] see: Worldbank Genderstatistics 2001, http://genderstats.worldbank.org

[81] “Career women need equality”, in: China Daily, December 3, 2001

[82] „Protective exclusion or excluded from protections: working conditions and discrimination against women in employment”, China Rights Forum, Fall 1995; http://iso.hrichina.org

[83] see: : Monica Das Gupta et al.:”State policies and women`s autonomy in China, the Republic of Korea, and India 1950-2000: Lessons from contrasting experiences”; December 2000, The World Bank – Development Research Group/ Poverty Reduction and Economic Management; Policy Research on Gender and Development; Working Paper Series No. 16, p. 10

[84] see: Jiping Zuo: “Feminization of Agriculture and Marital Inequality in China: A case in Guangxi Province”, in: A report on the conference of the European Association of Chinese Studies; (www.boell.de/downloads/gd/WomenGenderChinaReport.pdf)

[85] „Awakening rural women`s potential“, in: China Daily, January 30, 2003

[86] see: Monica Das Gupta et al.:”State policies and women`s autonomy in China, the Republic of Korea, and India 1950-2000: Lessons from contrasting experiences”; December 2000, The World Bank – Development Research Group/ Poverty Reduction and Economic Management: Policy Research on Gender and Development; Working Paper Series No. 16, p.9

[87] see: Jennifer Duncan, Li Ping: “Women and land tenure in China, rdi report”, April 2001,p.11

[88] www.womenofchina.com.cn/files/statistics/main.htm

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Title
What legal alterations have there been in China to strengthen women`s situation and how effective are they
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2003
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19
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V108452
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English
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1st Place in a writing competition
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Beatrix Massig (Author), 2003, What legal alterations have there been in China to strengthen women`s situation and how effective are they, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/108452

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