White Paper on Gender Equality and Women's Development in China (Excerpt)

 April 13, 2006

 

The State Council Information Office published on Wednesday a white paper entitled Gender Equality and Women's Development in China. The nine-chapter document discusses the progress China has made in promoting gender equality and women's development over the last decade.

 

Gender Equality and Women's Development in China

 

Foreword

 

China is a developing country with the largest population in the world. Of its total population of 1.3 billion, women account for about half. Therefore, the promotion of gender equality and the overall development of women is not only of great significance for China's development, it also has a special influence on the efforts for the advancement of mankind.

 

It has always been a basic state policy of China to promote equality between men and women. Since New China was founded in 1949, especially since the adoption of the reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s, and along with the continuous growth of China's economy and the overall progress of its society, women are being given more guarantees of enjoyment of equal rights and opportunities with men and the development of women is being given unprecedented opportunities.

 

In recent years, the Chinese government has made fairness and justice, with gender equality included, an important part of efforts to build a harmonious socialist society, and has utilized economic, legal, administrative, public opinion and other measures to ensure that women enjoy equal rights with men in terms of politics, economy, culture, and social and family life, and continuously pushes forward women's development in an all-round way.

 

The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth UN World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995 have produced great influence in promoting the progress of gender equality and women's development around the world. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the conference, this white paper has been prepared to introduce to the rest of the world China's progress in promoting gender equality and women's development over the past decade.

 

I. State Mechanism to Promote Gender Equality and Development of Women

 

To promote gender equality and the development of women, China is making unremitting efforts to improve its legal system to protect the rights and interests of women, formulate and implement programs regarding women's development, further improve relevant working organs, increase financial input and strengthen social awareness.

 

The state has continuously intensified its efforts in the formulation, revision and enforcement of relevant laws and regulations to protect the legitimate rights and interests of women in earnest. As the supreme organ of state power and the top legislative organ of China, the National People's Congress and its Standing Committee have taken the protection of women's rights and interests and the promotion of gender equality as a key assignment, paid great attention to the formulation of laws concerning women, seriously dealt with bills related to the protection of women's legitimate rights and interests, and actively urged and supervised the enforcement and implementation of relevant laws. The Chinese government and its departments concerned have enforced laws and formulated and implemented relevant administrative rules and regulations to guarantee women's rights and interests, and promote gender equality. China now has built a complete legal system concerning the protection of women's rights and interests, and promotion of gender equality, based on the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, and with the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women as the main body and various separate laws and regulations, local regulations and administrative rules adopted by various government departments as supplementary provisions. The state judicial organs have augmented their law enforcement steps, and punished the perpetrators of various kinds of criminal infringements of women's rights and interests in accordance with the law.

 

The state has enacted and implemented outlines for the development of women, and included women's development in the overall plans of economic and social development. The Outline for the Development of Chinese Women is a national program of action to carry out the Platform for Action adopted in 1995 in Beijing and push forward gender equality and women's development in a comprehensive way. Since the goals set in the Outline for the Development of Chinese Women (1995-2000) have been basically realized, and to meet the demands of China's coordinated economic and social development and the requirements of the UN Millennium Development Goals, China promulgated in 2001 its Outline for the Development of Chinese Women (2001-2010). The new document outlines 34 major goals and 100 policies and measures in six fields: women and the economy; women's participation in decision-making and administration; women and education; women and health; women and the law; and women and the environment. The departments concerned under the State Council and local governments at all levels have all worked out their own programs for the implementation of the outline and plans for women's development in their respective areas.

 

The National Working Committee on Children and Women (NWCCW) under the State Council, the coordination and consultation organ of the Chinese government in charge of women and children's work, plays an important role in coordinating and promoting relevant government departments to do women and children's work well, as well as in formulating and organizing the implementation of the outlines for the development of women and children, providing necessary human, financial and material resources to the work on women and children and to the development of women and children's cause, and guiding, encouraging and supervising the work of its subordinates in all provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government. The current NWCCW is headed by a vice-premier of the State Council, and is composed of 33 member units (ministries, commissions under the State Council and non-governmental organizations - ed.) each having one of its vice-ministerial-level officials as a member of the NWCCW. To date, working organs on children and women have been set up by the people's governments of all provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, prefectures (prefecture-level cities and leagues) and counties (county-level cities, districts and banners) across China's mainland, which are under the direction of officials of governments at the corresponding level. An effective working system has been built within these working committees to coordinate the functional departments and urge them to perform their duties. Their expenditures are covered in the financial budgets of the governments at the corresponding level.

 

The Chinese government attaches importance to the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) related to the development of women. The All-China Women's Federation, All-China Federation of Trade Unions, Central Committee of the Communist Youth League, China Disabled Persons' Federation and China Association of Science and Technology have all effectively pressed ahead with their gender equality work in line with their respective guidelines. The All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) is the largest NGO in China dedicated to promoting gender equality and women's development. It has an organizational system that covers women's federations and group members at various levels, and enjoys wide representation and mass involvement. The ACWF and local women's federations play a significant role in uniting and motivating women to participate in the country's economic construction and social development, encouraging them to take an active part in the democratic management and supervision of state and social affairs, and representing and safeguarding the rights and interests of women as a whole. In recent years, government departments have cooperated with women's federations and other NGOs to organize all kinds of activities to effectively utilize social resources for the promotion of gender equality and women's development.

 

The central and local treasuries have both increased their inputs for the implementation of the outline for the development of women year by year, and optimized the allocation of resources to facilitate women's development. Since 2000, quite an amount of funds have been appropriated from the central and local treasuries to help achieve the key and difficult objectives that are difficult to fulfill in the outlines, with priority being given to the western and poverty-stricken areas. In 1990, the state input into women and children's health care and epidemic prevention and treatment stood at 305 million yuan and 1.203 billion yuan, respectively, which rose to 1.046 billion yuan and 3.388 billion yuan in 1999, and further to 1.579 billion yuan and 9.054 billion yuan in 2003. The state also pays great attention to the collection and study of statistics about the situation as regards women, and has set up a special organ to monitor and assess the implementation of the outline, and formulated a statistical monitoring indicator system and assessment program. In addition, networks for statistics monitoring and working systems have been established in various provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government. With the continuous improvement of the statistics-gathering and analysis systems by the departments concerned and gender statistics indicators added, a complete national gender statistics system has taken shape and is being constantly improved. Over the past decade, materials on gender statistics have been compiled and published by the state departments of statistics.

 

The Chinese government sets great store by cooperation with the United Nations and other international organizations, and has actively strengthened its exchanges and cooperation with other governments and women's organizations around the world. China is serious about implementing international conventions. In May 2000, it submitted to the United Nations The Report on the Implementation Result of the People's Republic of China of the "Beijing Declaration" and the "Platform for Action" Adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995; in February 2004, it submitted The Fifth and Sixth Regular Reports on the Implementation of the UN "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women;" and in March 2005, it submitted The Report on the Implementation of the People's Republic of China of the "Beijing Platform for Action" (1995) and the Document of Results of the 23rd UN General Assembly Special Session (2000).

 

II. Women and the Economy

 

The state has made the guarantee of equal employment opportunities between women and men and the sharing of economic resources and results of social development the top priority for the advancement of gender equality and the development of women, and has worked out and adopted a series of policies and measures to ensure that women can equally participate in the economic development, enjoy equal access to economic resources and effective services, enhance their self-development ability and improve their social and economic status.

 

Encouraging women to start business and become re-employed. Employment is the basis of people's livelihood and the basic economic resource that women rely on for subsistence. Over the past few years, the Chinese government has formulated and carried out supportive policies to encourage women to start businesses on their own initiative, and give them preferential treatment when granting employment training subsidies and small-sum guaranteed loans and conducting tax reduction and exemption. In the meantime, governments at all levels have adopted many favorable policies toward women, such as creating public-welfare jobs, opening employment service centers, sponsoring special recruitment activities and vocational training courses, monitoring sex discrimination against women in employment and help women, especially laid-off women, to find new jobs. With the support of the government, women's federations at various levels, trade unions and other NGOs have conducted their work regarding the employment and re-employment of women in a creative way. During the period from 1998 to 2003, women's federations nationwide endeavored to get small-sum credit loans to directly aid a total of 2.5 million women to get re-employed. Over the past decade, the number and ratio of women employed have remained fairly high. By the end of 2004, the number of both urban and rural women workers reached 337 million nationwide, accounting for 44.8 percent of the total employed; and the number of women workers in urban work units stood at 42.27 million, accounting for 38.1 percent of the national total.

 

Improving the employment structure of women. Over the past few years, the tertiary industry has become the main channel for providing jobs to women, and an increasing number of women are entering the computer, communications, finance and insurance and other high- and new-tech industries, thus becoming an important force in these fields. At present, women owners of small and medium-sized enterprises account for about 20 percent of the national total number of entrepreneurs, and 60 percent of them have emerged in the past decade. State organs, enterprises and public institutions have long pursued the principle of equality between men and women in terms of recruitment, training of professionals and technicians, as well as promotion in ranks and granting of professional titles to encourage women to display their abilities and come to the fore. By the end of 2004, women accounted for 43.6 percent of the total number of professionals and technicians in state-owned enterprises and institutions nationwide, up 6.3 percentage points over the 37.3 percent of 1995, among whom, the number of senior and intermediate-level women professionals and technicians rose from 20.1 percent and 33.4 percent to 30.5 percent and 42.0 percent, respectively.

 

Enhancing social security for urban women. In recent years, the Chinese government has stepped up the construction of a social security system, with pension insurance, unemployment insurance, medical insurance, employment injury insurance and maternity insurance as the main contents. It has also carried out significant reforms of the urban social relief system, and gradually established and improved three funds: minimum urban living guarantee fund, basic living guarantee for laid-off workers fund and unemployment guarantee fund. The Trial Measures for Maternity Insurance of Enterprise Employees the state promulgated in 1994 put maternity insurance, which used to be borne by employers, under overall social planning. By the end of 2004, the practice of overall social planning had been introduced in 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, with 43.84 million employees, or 60 percent of the total number of urban employees covered. In October 1999, the Regulations on the Minimum Standard of Living for Urban Residents went into effect. By the end of 2004, 22.05 million urban residents, including women, were receiving minimum subsistence allowances. All those who needed such help were by and large covered.

 

Giving full play to women's role in the rural economy. China is basically an agricultural country, and women account for more than 60 percent of the rural labor force and are a major force in farming activities. The Law of the People's Republic of China on Rural Land Contracting, which came into effect in 2003, states that women and men enjoy equal rights in contracting land in rural areas, and no organization or individual shall deprive women of the right to contract and operate land or infringe upon their right to do so. In recent years, the Chinese government has adopted active policies and measures to solve the problems concerning agriculture, rural areas and farmers, increased its input into agriculture, pushed forward tax reform in rural areas, and implemented the strategy of invigorating agriculture by applying science and technology. Government departments and women's federations at all levels have jointly organized activities to encourage rural women to acquire knowledge and learn science and technology, and compete in their development and contributions, so as to bring their role in invigorating and developing the rural economy into full play.

 

Safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of rural women working in cities. Over the past few years, the Chinese government has gradually reduced or eliminated the restrictive regulations on the employment of rural people in cities, and made great efforts to solve the problems of salaries in arrears, vocational safety, equal pay for equal work and social security for them so as to relieve rural migrant workers of anxieties regarding residence registration in cities and the schooling of their children, and actively protects the legitimate rights and interests of rural women working in cities. At the same time, the state also encourages and supports the building of training schools and legal aid centers, and the publication of typical cases of infringement as a means to raise awareness of their rights among migrant women workers and enhance their ability to safeguard their rights in accordance with the law.

 

To actively promote gender equality in employment and raise women's ability to find employment or start businesses, the Chinese government has begun to cooperate with the United Nations Development Program, International Labor Organization and other international organizations, with satisfactory results. At present, it is accelerating, proceeding from the national conditions of China, the process for the approval of the UN's Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention in China.

 

IX. Legal Guarantees of Women's Rights and Interests

 

The state's legal system for protecting women's legitimate rights and interests has been improved constantly. In the last decade, China has enacted and revised, in succession, the Marriage Law, the Population and Family Planning Law, the Law on Rural Land Contracting, and the Law on Protection of Rights and Interests of Women, and promulgated and implemented over 100 rules and regulations concerning the protection of women's rights and interests, such as the Regulations on Implementing the Law on Mother and Infant Healthcare.

Gradually setting up a socialized work mechanism for protecting women's rights and interests. The state has established a national coordination group for the protection of women's and children's rights and interests, composed of members from 19 government departments. Some courts have established specialized tribunals to accept and adjudicate civil cases involving the protection of women's rights and interests, and people's jurors from women's federations and other relevant organs are invited by the courts to participate directly in the hearing of such cases. The state has made positive efforts to cultivate gender awareness among law enforcement and judicial officials, bringing into full play judicial officials' role in safeguarding women's rights. The state also sets store by increasing the number of female judicial officials and their ratio in the total number. In 2004, female judges and procurators accounted for 22.7 percent and 21.7 percent of the total numbers, up 5.9 percentage points and 5 percentage points, respectively, as compared with 1995.

 

Holding legal aid and publicity activities concerning the legal system for safeguarding women's legitimate rights and interests. To ensure that women's legitimate rights and interests are properly protected, the relevant department of the Chinese government issued a special notice, stressing that no legal aid institutions, law firms, notarization institutions or grassroots legal service institutions may decline to handle or postpone without proper reason an accusation, appeal or prosecution that involves infringement on women's rights and interests. Moreover, legal service fees should be reduced or exempted for women in straitened circumstances. The Regulations on Legal Aid, put into effect in China in 2003, expressly stipulates that it is the government's responsibility to provide legal aid, and citizens in straitened circumstances can obtain legal aid free of charge, which therefore provides material aid to impoverished women against infringement of their rights. By the end of 2004, 3,023 governmental legal aid institutions had been established in China. In addition, the Chinese government also supports NGOs' efforts to set up hotlines to protect women's rights and legal consultation centers to provide legal aid and similar services for women. China is now engaged in its fourth five-year publicity campaign. Highlighted in the publicity activities are the Law on Protection of Rights and Interests of Women, the Labor Law, the Marriage Law, the Population and Family Planning Law, and the Law on Rural Land Contracting, all of which are closely related to women's rights and interests.

 

Combating domestic violence against women and taking practical measures to solve the problem. The Criminal Law, the Criminal Procedure Law, the General Rules of the Civil Law, the Marriage Law, and the Law on Protection of Rights and Interests of Women all forbid violence against women by anyone and in any form. Legislation and judicial practice both stress that those who have committed domestic violence against women shall be penalized in civil and criminal terms according to the seriousness of the violence, and active legal aids should be provided to the victims. In recent years, local statutes outlawing domestic violence have been enacted in some areas, and by the end of 2004 some 22 provinces (autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the central government) had formulated such rules, policies and measures. Besides, the Chinese government has cooperated actively with NGOs to launch intervening projects, as well as vigorous publicity, education and training activities; set up alarm centers, injury assessment centers and women's aid stations; open anti-domestic-violence hotlines; and provide multiple services for female victims, including consultation, shelter, medical care and psychological help.

 

Stringently cracking down on crimes of abducting and trafficking in women. The charges for abduction, trafficking in and buying women were revised and added to the Criminal Law in 1997, and the penalties for such crimes were made more severe. The Supreme People's Court has laid down judicial interpretations on the related legal clauses to facilitate their execution. In recent years, public security organs throughout the country have taken a series of special actions to crack down on the abducting of and trafficking in women and children, set up transfer, training and rehabilitating centers for rescued women and children. All these actions have achieved remarkable results. Meanwhile, the public security and judicial organs have made the crackdown on the crimes of abducting and trafficking in women and children an important field of international cooperation, and have signed agreements on bilateral police service cooperation and treaties on judicial assistance in criminal cases with related countries in joint undertakings to prevent and crack down on crimes of abducting and trafficking in women and children.

 

Protecting the legal rights of female criminals and criminal suspects. The state strictly observes the system of separate jails and management for male and female criminals, with female criminals directly managed by policewomen. Women doctors are assigned to female criminals, and the latter are allowed to spend festivals with their minor children. Education in law, culture and vocations suitable for female criminals' physiology and psychology, and a rich variety of cultural and sport activities are conducted to help their rehabilitation.

 

Conclusion

 

It is obvious to all that great progress has been achieved in the promotion of gender equality and women's development in China over the past decade.

 

At the same time, the Chinese government is highly aware that, restricted by the country's limited level of economic and social development, especially in the process of economic restructuring and in establishing and improving a socialist market economic system, China is confronted with new situations and problems in its efforts to promote gender equality and women's development. Chinese women have become increasingly more diversified in their social status, and thus their needs for subsistence, development and protection of their rights and interests also vary. There is an obvious imbalance in the development of women in different regions, social status and groups; the outmoded conventions and custom of inequality between men and women handed down from China's history and culture have not yet been completely eradicated, and women's rights and interests are still being infringed upon to varying degrees in some areas. There is a long way to go and arduous tasks to tackle to achieve gender equality and promote women's development in China to a satisfactory level.

 

In the new historical stage of building a comparatively well-off society in an all-round way, the Chinese government aims, from the strategic height of building a harmonious socialist society in the light of China's national conditions, to promote the scientific concept of people-oriented, overall, coordinated and sustainable development, further implement the basic national policy of equality between men and women, safeguard women's rights and interests according to law, put into effect the requirements for the goals of the Outline for the Development of Chinese Women, and strive to ensure that women enjoy the same rights as men in politics, economy, culture, society and family life. The Chinese government will continue its efforts to encourage all social sectors to help promote gender equality and women's development, strengthen its exchanges and cooperation with the United Nations and other international organizations concerned and the governments of various countries, and make active contributions to promoting worldwide equality, development and peace.

 

(Source: China.org.cn August 24, 2005)

 

32.3K

Please understand that womenofchina.cn,a non-profit, information-communication website, cannot reach every writer before using articles and images. For copyright issues, please contact us by emailing: website@womenofchina.cn. The articles published and opinions expressed on this website represent the opinions of writers and are not necessarily shared by womenofchina.cn.


Comments