Gender Equality and Women's Development in China

September 23, 2015  Editor: Eileen Cheng

VII. Legal Guarantees for Gender Equality and Women's Development

By accelerating the building of a socialist country under the rule of law, comprehensively promoting the rule of law and exploring socialist mechanisms safeguarding women's rights and interests, China has put in place a legal system for protecting women' s rights and interests and promoting gender equality that is based on the Constitution, takes the Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women as the core and encompasses various specific state laws and regulations, local regulations and government rules and regulations.

Laws and regulations protecting women's rights and interests have been constantly improved. Over the past two decades, more than 20 laws and regulations have been enacted and revised, including the Marriage Law, Population and Family Planning Law, Employment Promotion Law, Organic Law of the Villagers Committees, Social Insurance Law, Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women, and Special Regulations on the Labor Protection of Female Employees. The 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government on China's mainland have revised their measures for implementing the Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women. Major progress has been made in legislation addressing violence against women. Twenty-nine provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government) have formulated local regulations or policies to prevent and prohibit domestic violence. In August 2015, the 16th session of China's 12th NPC Standing Committee conducted the first review of the Anti-domestic Violence Law (Draft). An article addressing sexual harassment against women was added to the Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women revised in 2005, and the Special Regulations on the Labor Protection of Female Employees formulated and implemented in 2012 clearly stipulate that employers should prevent and prohibit sexual harassment against female employees. The Amendment IX to the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China approved in August 2015 strengthened protection of women, especially of girls under the age of 14, and specified harsher punishments for the crimes of raping girls under the age of 14 and abducting and trafficking in women and children.

Law enforcement has been intensified to protect women's rights and interests. The NPC Standing Committee has attached great importance to law enforcement inspection and thematic research on the enforcement of the Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women and related issues, and urged government departments at all levels to strictly enforce the law. China has strengthened inspection of employers and human resources service organizations, investigated and dealt with crimes violating the labor protection law and infringing upon the legitimate rights and interests of female employees, and promoted gender equality in employment. The State Council issued China' s Action Plan Against Human Trafficking (2013-2020) in 2013, further improving the mechanism of inter-departmental coordination. The public security organs have resolutely combated crimes of violence against women. In 2013, they uncovered 25,852 rape cases and 4,537 cases of abducting and trafficking in women. China has also strengthened international judicial cooperation, carried out international cooperation programs, and severely dealt with transnational and trans-regional gangs engaged in abducting and trafficking in women and children.

Judicial protection of women's rights and interests has been strengthened. The courts have established special collegial panels for safeguarding women's rights, along with family courts to properly try cases of marriage and family disputes and protect women's legitimate rights and interests in emotional distress compensation and property division. Punishment has been reinforced against crimes violating women's personal rights and interests, such as crimes of acting indecently against or insulting a woman by force, of abducting and trafficking women and of buying abducted women, all in an effort to safeguard women' s personal rights, interests and dignity. China has also encouraged judicial action against domestic violence at the grassroots level. It has explored the adjudication system of personal security protection against domestic violence, and courts which conduct this pilot program are found in 14 provinces as compared to five in 2008. Some local public security organs have established a domestic violence warning system so as to prevent and respond promptly to domestic violence in a more effective manner. In 2014, the Supreme People' s Court issued the guiding cases on domestic violence, regulated judicial discretion in cases of answering violence with violence, and improved the unified application of the law. China has given priority to the important role played by women in judicial justice. In 2013, the proportion of female people's jurors was 34.2 percent, and the proportions of female judges and procurators were 28.8 percent and 29.3 percent, up 12.1 percent and 12.3 percent over 1995, respectively. Professional women' s organizations, such as women judges associations, women procurators associations and women lawyers associations, have played a positive role in safeguarding women' s rights and interests.

Intensified publicity and education campaigns on law have been carried out to raise public awareness of legal aspects of gender equality. China has implemented in succession six five-year plans to spread legal knowledge among the public, making laws and regulations safeguarding women's rights and interests an important part of law-related education in schools at different levels, and ensuring they are well publicized in the media through radio, television programs, newspapers and periodicals, and the Internet. Taking advantage of the publicity and education network, China has held law-themed activities to promote the understanding and application of laws on gender equality in state organs, villages, communities, schools, enterprises and work units, trying to nurture an atmosphere of respecting and protecting women' s rights and interests in society. Women's federations at all levels and other women's organizations have intensified public opinion monitoring and scientific analysis of major cases violating women' s rights and interests, giving voice to the female view in a timely manner, and advocating the value of gender equality throughout society. Activities such as "Building a China under the Rule of Law: Women in Action" have been held to guide female citizens to respect, study, abide by and make use of law, and to improve their awareness and capability of safeguarding their own legitimate rights and interests through the law.

The mechanism of women's rights protection based on multi-institutional cooperation has been improved to provide legal services to women. The Opinions on Further Strengthening Legal Aid and the Opinions on Establishing and Improving the System of State Judicial Relief (for Trial Implementation) were issued in 2013 and 2014 respectively, providing an institutional guarantee for the provision of legal aid and judicial relief to women. In 2014, China established 3,737 legal aid institutions, providing help to 352,000 women. Compared with 2000, the number of legal aid institutions increased by 97.7 percent, and the number of women receiving legal aid increased by 310,000. Support has been given to the efforts of women' s federations and other women's organizations in setting up hotlines and institutions providing rights protection services and legal aid for women. At present, the hotline 12338 has been in operation in more than 2,800 districts (counties) of China's 31 provincial-level administrative divisions, and 250,000 institutions such as women' s rights protection stations and complaint centers against domestic violence have been established, which have widened the channels for Chinese women to protect their rights and interests.

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