Report: Women, Children's Rights Protection Progresses Steeply in Past 40 Yrs

December 26, 2018  Editor: Wang Yue

Much significant progress has been made in protecting women and children's rights and interests in China over the past 40 years, according to an official white paper issued on December 12.

The white paper, "Progress in Human Rights over the 40 Years of Reform and Opening Up in China," details how reform and opening up has helped liberate and develop social productive forces, opened up a path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and ushered in a new chapter in the development of human rights.

Since 1978, China has improved various mechanisms for ensuring its citizens' rights, adopting targeted measures to create opportunities for special groups in pursuit of self-development and life goals. The legitimate rights of ethnic minority groups, women, children, the elderly, and the physically-impaired are protected, according to the authors.

Women's Equal Right Participating in Administration of Public Affairs, Socioeconomic Development

China has taken numerous solid measures to implement the basic state policy of gender equality, and amended the Law on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests.

The proportion of female officials at each level has increased steadily, and the number of female officials in Party and government organs has grown from 422,000 at the beginning of reform and opening up to 1.9 million in 2017, accounting for 26.5 percent of all officials.

Women participate fully in the administration and discussion of State affairs.

Most recently, there were 742 female deputies to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) and 442 women among the 13th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee members, accounting for 24.9 percent and 20.5 percent of all deputies and members, respectively.

At the 2018 sessions of the provincial people's congresses and political consultative conferences, women made up 27.33 and 25.69 percent of all deputies and members.

Women's Entrepreneurship, Employment

The state has strengthened economic empowerment for women, helping them to start businesses and seek employment. In 2016, women employed nationwide accounted for 43.1 percent of the total employed population.

To engage women in employment and entrepreneurship, China has introduced micro-credit loans with a financial discount. As of June, a total of 359 billion yuan such loan had been issued to 6.34 million women to start businesses, and the government had allocated 39 billion yuan for discounts on interest.

By September 2017, 1.37 million collective contracts for protecting female workers' rights and interests had been signed nationwide, covering almost 80 million female workers in 3.15 million enterprises.

In the 592 counties which are classified as the main targets of national poverty alleviation and development work, the incidence of poverty of the female population decreased from 20.3 percent in 2005 to 9.8 percent in 2010.

Women, Children's Health

According to the report, health services for women and children have improved.

China has strengthened healthcare programs for women and children to safeguard their right to health.

The government has improved the distribution of health resources, and increased spending on maternal and child healthcare programs in rural, border and remote areas.

From 2012-2016, some 48 million rural women received State subsidies and gave birth in official institutions. In 2017, the state provided free checkups for 11.73 million rural couples planning for pregnancy, covering 91.7 percent of the target population.

The government also launched a program of free cervical and breast cancer checkups for rural women in June 2009. 

The mortality rate of children under five decreased from 61 per thousand to 9.1 per thousand from 1991-2017. Meanwhile in 2016 the underweight rate for children under five decreased to 1.49 percent. The corresponding rates for growth retardation and incidences of anemia were 1.15 percent and 4.79 percent.

The government has initiated the Water Cellar for Mothers program to provide safe water storage for people, especially women, in the western parts of China, so that they have reliable sources of drinking water.

By 2017, a total of 3.04 million people had received help from the program and had access to safe drinking water.

Protection, Assistance for Women, Children

China has taken judicial action against domestic violence at the grassroots level. It has experimented with an adjudication system of personal security protection orders against domestic violence.

China promulgated the Anti-Domestic Violence Law in 2015, which has played an important role in ensuring the legitimate rights of family members including women, and maintaining equal and harmonious family relations.

Amendment IX to the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China represents a major step forward in protecting women and children's rights and interests. It specifies harsher punishments for the crimes of raping girls under 14 and abducting and trafficking women and children.

To ensure the physical and psychological health of minors and to protect their legitimate rights and interests, China has promulgated the Law on the Protection of Minors and the Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency.

The Ministry of Public Security developed the world's first DNA database for finding abducted children in 2009, having helped over 5,500 children reunite with their families to date.

On the Tuan Yuan (Reunion) online platform initiated in 2016, a total of 3,419 cases on missing children had been posted as of September 2018, which had helped reunite 3,367 children.

In 2017 China had 663 child adoption and assistance institutions with 103,000 beds, accommodating 59,000 persons.

Furthermore, some 780,000 so-called left-at-home rural children had been provided with effective guardianship as of the end of last year. Among whom 180,000 previously unregistered individuals had settled down, and 17,000 had returned to school.

Right to Life, Health

The maternal mortality rate decreased from 94.7 per 100,000 in 1989 to 19.6 per 100,000 in 2017, and the infant mortality rate dropped from 50.2 per 1,000 in 1991 to 6.8 per 1,000 in 2017, both meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule.

Basic public health services have improved, with national vaccination coverage among children topping 90 percent, and the prevalence of Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) in children under five decreasing to 1 percent.

Education Right

China has made great efforts in implementing the education-first strategy to modernize education and guarantee equal access to education for all.

Government spending on education is targeted to be no lower than 4 percent of GDP. From 2012-2017, national expenditure on education totaled close to 21 trillion yuan.

The level of national education has significantly improved: The average years of schooling for those aged over 14 rose from 5.3 in 1982 to 9.6 in 2017; the figure for the working-age population reached 10.5.

Rapid progress has been made in preschool education. Last year, the total number of kindergartens stood at 255,000, an increase of 55.5 percent over 1978, with the gross enrollment rate reaching 79.6 percent.

A Compulsory Education Law was formulated and then revised to extend the enforcement of nine-year compulsory education.

There were 219,000 public schools providing compulsory education in 2017, accommodating 145 million students. The net enrollment rate of primary school-age children was 99.91 percent, the gross enrollment rate of middle school-age population was 103.5 percent.

Senior secondary education is basically popularized in China. In 2017, there were 24,600 senior high schools nationwide, with a total of 39.71 million students on campus, an increase of 21.67 million over 1978. The gross enrollment rate of senior high school-age population reached 88.3 percent.

Furthermore, higher education is developing vigorously. In 2017, there were 2,913 universities across the country, with 37.79 million students on campus, representing a gross enrollment rate of 45.7 percent of college-age population.

Education in Ethnic Minority Areas

China has adopted a series of measures to promote educational equality and ensure ethnic minorities' right to education.

These measures include: opening schools for students from ethnic minority groups, using both Putonghua (standard Chinese) and ethnic languages in school education, giving preferential treatment to students from ethnic minority groups when they take exams to enter higher levels of education, and running residential schools in farming and pastoral areas.

In southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, students enjoy a total of 15 years free education policy from preschool to senior high.

In south Xinjiang, northwest China, students also enjoy 15 years of zero-cost education, and those in rural areas are provided with free three-year preschool education both in Putonghua and ethnic languages.

Disabled Persons' Right to Education

China ensures that the physically-impaired enjoy equal right to education. The government has released laws and regulations aiming to develop special education and inclusive education to increase the level of education for those who are physically-impaired.

The state has established a funding system for physically-impaired students from kindergarten to higher education.

In autumn 2016, China began to provide 12-year free education from primary to senior high school for physically-impaired students from impoverished families. By 2016 over 90 percent of children with impaired eyesight, hearing or mental disability had received compulsory education, and children with other types of disabilities also had increased access to education.

The state encourages special education schools to run preschool courses or kindergartens, and has provided funding for physically-impaired children receiving preschool education. By 2017, some 1,845 physically-impaired persons studied at colleges of special education.

China strives to develop inclusive education. In 2017 over 300,000 physically-impaired students — over 50 percent of all physically-impaired students receiving compulsory education — studied at regular schools during the compulsory education phase, and 10,818 physically-impaired persons were enrolled at regular institutions of higher learning.

(Source: and edited by Women of China)

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