DESPITE TREMENDOUS EFFORTS BY GOVERNMENT, CHINA STILL CONFRONTED BY REALITY OF EXTENSIVE FEMALE ILLITERACY, RURAL POVERTY AND RISING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
DESPITE TREMENDOUS EFFORTS BY GOVERNMENT, CHINA STILL CONFRONTED BY REALITY OF EXTENSIVE FEMALE ILLITERACY, RURAL POVERTY AND RISING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
DESPITE TREMENDOUS EFFORTS BY GOVERNMENT, CHINA STILL CONFRONTED BY REALITY OF EXTENSIVE FEMALE ILLITERACY, RURAL POVERTY AND RISING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE19990201
China was not entirely free from the remnants of the feudal age, and despite tremendous efforts by the Government to protect women and promote their full participation in development, the country was confronting a sobering reality of extensive female illiteracy, rural poverty and an increased incidence of domestic violence, the Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations told the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning, as it began the current phase of its consideration of China's compliance with the Women's Convention.
As one of the first State parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Chinese Government had always attached great importance to its implementation, Ambassador Qin Huasun told the 23-member expert body that monitors compliance with the Convention. Introducing his country's third and fourth periodic reports, he noted that more than a quarter of the world's women -- 600 million -- lived in China. Amid its deepening reform process, however, Chinese women had "a long way to go" towards realizing their full equality.
There was still a large gap in the education of urban and rural women, he said, and more than 100 million were still illiterate. In addition, large numbers of women workers -- laid off in the wake of economic reform -- were finding it very difficult to be re-employed, and the proportion of women in political life was still rather low. Moreover, the incidence of violence against them had increased, and certain social ills had still not been stamped out, despite the Government's repeated efforts to do so. Against those odds, China was determined to advance the status of its women, and it welcomed the support of the international community in that respect.
Members of the Chinese delegation -- which included government representatives from the legal and foreign affairs departments, as well as the National Working Committee on Women and Children and the State Family Planning
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 1a - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
Commission -- replied to the numerous questions posed by the experts at their pre-sessional working group in January. They said that following the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995, extensive publicity on the development of Chinese women had heightened awareness at all levels of leadership. The socio-economic changes of the last two decades had strengthened women's awareness of equality, self-reliance and participation; the wide use of television and radio had contributed to that process.
Nevertheless, the reform and "opening-up" had unavoidably produced some negative effects on women, they said. An increase in domestic and social violence, including rape, trafficking, kidnapping, and forced prostitution, had accompanied the lay-offs of women workers. Exacerbating those problems were the existence of mercenary or arbitrary marriages in remote and poverty- stricken rural areas. Traditional feudal ideas had also provoked ill-treatment. Throughout China, women victims had quietly endured the abuse to protect the family's reputation.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its consideration of China's third and fourth periodic reports.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to begin its consideration of the third and fourth periodic reports of China (document CEDAW/C/CHN/3-4 September 1998), as well as the initial report of China on Hong Kong (document CEDAW/C/CHN/3-4/Add.2), over which it resumed sovereignty on 1 July 1997.
The reports have been submitted under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which provides for States parties to submit reports on legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures adopted to implement the provisions of the Convention. (For background on the session, see Press Release WOM/1003 of 15 January).
Third and Fourth Periodic Reports of China
The third and fourth periodic reports of China cover its compliance with the Convention from 1989 to 1995, with particular emphasis on the period following the Committee's consideration of China's second report in 1992. The reports present basic facts and figures about Chinese women; describe China's implementation of the Convention; and outline the measures taken by the Chinese Government to follow up the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. In the report, the Government reiterates its continued reservation to article 29, paragraph 1 of the Convention.
The report recalls that in March 1992, the decision of the United Nations to convene the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 focused the world's attention on the situation of Chinese women -- historically subjected to "humiliation and brutal oppression" in a feudal and, subsequently semi-feudal, semi-colonial society. Following the founding of the People's Republic of China, Chinese women -- who comprise one quarter of the world's female population -- achieved their historic liberation. New China has proclaimed that women should enjoy equal rights with men in the political, economic, cultural, and social spheres, as well as in family life, and it has made them masters of the State and society.
As "master of their own minds", Chinese women actively participate in national development and have made important contributions in the areas of industry, agriculture, science, culture, education, and public health, the report states. At the same time, great changes have taken place in the mental outlook of Chinese women, whose spirit of self-respect, self-confidence, self- reliance and self-improvement has enabled them to make substantial progress in politics, education, science and production. In real life, however, their equal rights in the political, employment and educational spheres, as well as in marriage and family life, have not yet been fully realized.
Disrespect for and discrimination against women, as well as violations of their rights and interests, are not uncommon, and the overall talents and
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 3 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
abilities of China's women also need further improvement, the report states. Meanwhile, the Chinese Government has dedicated itself to developing the economy, strengthening the legal system, eliminating all backward ideas that discriminate against women and fulfilling the strategic objectives of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
With respect to their political participation, Chinese women comprise 21 percent of the total number of deputies in the First National People's Congress, the report continues. Overall, women make up some 33 percent of the total Government workforce. In addition, the country attaches great importance to training women cadres from ethnic minorities. In the educational sphere, urban Chinese women complete an average of nearly 10 years of school; only 2.1 percent are illiterate or semi-literate, while nearly 37 percent of rural women are illiterate or semi-literate.
The report states that from 1991 to 1995, China's labour and employment structure underwent marked changes as a result of rapid economic growth. These improvements were most evident in the ever-increasing proportion of women in the work force. By the end of 1994, women accounted from nearly 45 per cent of the total labour force. The Government attaches great importance to women's employment, and as physical strength requirements of jobs become less important with the widespread adoption of new technologies, more jobs are becoming available to women.
During the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000), the report states that China will pursue a policy of guidance and support to encourage workers to seek employment on their own, thereby transforming the current employment structure in which workers rely mainly on large and medium-sized State-owned enterprises for employment. During this period, great effort will be made to develop workers' job skills and enhance the calibre of the labour market. By the year 2000, the urban jobless rate will be held to approximately four per cent. These policies will also have a positive impact on women's employment rates as well as on the re-employment of laid-off women workers.
Concerning measures taken to implement the Beijing Platform for Action, the report finds that shortly after the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Chinese Government began to translate its commitments into concrete actions. In October 1995, senior Government officials held a meeting focusing on the implementation of the Programme of Development of Chinese Women (1995-2000) and follow-up activities to the world conference, at which authorities were asked to formulate plans for women's development in their localities and departments and to incorporate them into their overall social and economic development programmes. The authorities were also asked to ensure adequate human, material and financial resources for the implementation of the Programme and Platform for Action.
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 4 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
Subsequently, Government agencies identified their specific priority areas for development, the report states. In the area of employment, for example, the Ministry of Labour proposed various measures to vigorously develop employment opportunities for women, provide more job opportunities for them and ensure that the rate of growth in their employment is not lower than that for men. It has also called for greater development of rural and township enterprises, thereby creating more jobs for rural women. Efforts should be made to promote women's development in remote, poor and ethnic minority-inhabited regions. The proportion of women trainees in pre- employment training programmes should be maintained at above 50 per cent, while literacy and production-skills training should be completed for 10 million women in poor regions.
The State Education Commission, the report continues, has decided to give priority consideration to women's education in formulating both education development programmes and annual plans. It also intends to make further efforts to introduce policy incentives to the development of women's education. The Ministry of Public Security is determined to give top priority to protecting the lawful rights and interests of women and children by undertaking effective measures to combat abduction, trafficking in, abandonment, persecution and degradation of women, as well as prostitution. It also pledged to demonstrate a strong commitment to rescuing victims of abduction and re-educating prostitutes.
In the area of health care, the report finds that China has incorporated maternal and child care into its Ninth Five-Year Plan for Social and Economic Development (1996-2000). The Plan calls for increased investment in maternal and child care and greater efforts to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, and the incidence of neonatal defects. Health care policies are focused primarily on rural areas, in which the three-tiered maternal and child health care network (county, township and village) has played an enormously important role in ensuring the health of rural women. The maternal and infant mortality rates among rural families is decreasing, and the once common or chronic diseases afflicting them have largely been controlled. Scientific information about hygiene has also been disseminated extensively throughout rural areas.
The report goes on to state that the Ministry of Public Health has called for a rational utilization of resources by ensuring necessary support for maternal and child health care through adequate human, financial and material inputs, particularly in remote, poor, minority-inhabited and old revolutionary-base areas where preferential funding schemes and policies are needed. Meanwhile, Chinese women from all backgrounds, as well as numerous non-governmental organizations, have rallied behind the implementation of both the Programme and Platform for Action by formulating their own plans. For example, the All-China Women's Federation has introduced a series of women's actions, including organization of various literacy and training courses,
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 5 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
developing family-courtyard economic activities and launching poverty- alleviation projects.
Implementation of the Programme will give concrete expression to China's basic policy of gender equality, the report concludes. To maximize social participation in this effort, the Working Committee on Women and Children under the State Council, in conjunction with the Beijing municipal Government, held a rally attended by nearly 4,000 people in May 1996, as an opening to a month-long publicity campaign on behalf of the Programme. Throughout the year following the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Chinese Government did a great deal to follow up on the implementation of the Programme and Platform for Action. Many provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities also formulated women's development programmes for their respective localities.
Initial Report of Hong Kong
The initial report of Hong Kong, issued as an addendum to China's third and fourth periodic reports, explains that under the principle of "one country, two systems", the socialist system and policies are not practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years. The women's Convention was extended to Hong Kong with the consent of the Governments of China and the United Kingdom on 14 October 1996. Subsequently, the Chinese Government notified the Secretary-General that the Convention would apply to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region beginning 1 July 1997.
The first part of the report consists of a general profile of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the second part provides specific information in relation to each provision of the Convention. The report details the Basic Law provision of Hong Kong, which in summary, states that the Region shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy except in defence and foreign affairs, and shall exercise executive, legislative and independent judicial power. The fundamental basis for the protection of human rights is the rule of law maintained by an independent judiciary. It is now possible to employ legal arguments and take legal action based on the Basic Law. Indeed, the application of the Basic Law has already been tested in several court cases.
The report states that in general, and as is usual in common law systems, treaties that apply to Hong Kong (including human rights treaties) do not themselves have the force of law in the domestic legal system of Hong Kong. They cannot be directly invoked before the courts as a source of individual rights; however, the courts will, when possible, construe domestic legislation in a way that avoids incompatibility with these international obligations.
The usual method of giving effect in local law to treaty obligations is to enact specific new legislation, the report explains. An example is the
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 6 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
Crimes (Torture) Ordinance which was enacted to give effect to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Similarly, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance was enacted in 1991 to give effect in local law to the relevant provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The terms of the Bill of Rights are almost identical to those of the Covenant.
The report also explains that although China has assumed responsibility for the international rights and obligations arising from the application of the Convention to Hong Kong, it understands the main purpose of the Convention to be to reduce discrimination against women; the Convention would not require Hong Kong to repeal or modify any of its existing laws or customs which provide for women to be treated more favourably than men, whether temporarily or in the longer term. The obligations undertaken by the Chinese Government on behalf of Hong Kong under article 4, on temporary special measures to accelerate de facto equality, and other provisions of the Convention are to be construed accordingly. In light of the definition of discrimination contained in article 1, the Chinese Government's obligations under the Convention will not necessarily extend to the affairs of religious denominations or orders in Hong Kong.
The report reviews actions being undertaken by the Government of Hong Kong to review potentially discriminatory legislation. Where appropriate, legislative amendments have been or will be procured to remove the differential treatment. For example, both husbands and wives will be individually responsible for personal tax affairs, and a mother now has the authority to grant consent to an underage daughter in marriage. Moreover, certain gender-based provisions in the Matrimonial Ordinance have been rectified, with the enactment in June 1997 of the Marriage and Children Ordinance, the differential treatment of men and women under the Separation and Maintenance Order Ordinance has been removed. Amendments of the bankruptcy laws also seek to rectify gender-based discrepancies, and similar discriminatory provisions of the Merchant Shipping Ordinance were repealed in 1996.
The report also notes that implementation of the women's Convention requires the efforts of "literally all policy bureaus" in Hong Kong. While some have suggested the establishment of a women's commission to provide a focal point to address matters of concern for women, the Government considers such action to be neither necessary nor desirable, since at the top level of the Administration, the Policy Groups chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration and attended by senior representatives of the bureaus concerned already provide the necessary coordination among the various bureaus. In addition, the Equal Opportunities Commission, which is an independent statutory body, promotes equal opportunities to men and women and implements the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, aimed at eliminating gender-based bias.
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 7 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
The report also reviews the employment situation of both women and men. Employment opportunities, underpinned by rapid economic growth, have been conducive to the growing participation of women in the labour force. Reflecting both the increasing aspiration of women to take up paid employment and the growing employment opportunities for women, the labour force participation rate for females in the 20 to 39 age group has been rising steadily over the past decade. The labour force participation rate for females aged 15 to 19, however, has fallen as more young people pursue higher education and educational opportunities have increased. The labour force participation rate for females aged 60 and above also fell as more people retired and the economy was characterized by increasing affluence. "This shows that females, just as males, are able to share the fruits of economic growth and prosperity," the report states. Moreover, the unemployment rate for women is generally lower than that for men.
The report finds that along with the expansion in education and training opportunities, there has been a steady rise in the proportion of women at the higher end of the occupational hierarchy. Likewise, women have enjoyed a wider choice of occupations in recent years, and more women have taken up positions which used to have a relatively high proportion of male workers, including as engineers, railway engine and motor vehicle drivers. Over the past decade, employment opportunities for married women have been rising steadily. In 1996, married women accounted for 21 per cent of the employed population, up from 18 percent in 1986.
Hong Kong's tertiary education institutions have adopted a policy of equality for students of both sexes, the report continues. The admission criteria are based mainly on academic achievement, and the qualifications for admission are the same for women and men. Recent statistics on the number of first degree graduates of programmes funded by the University Grants Committee indicate a male dominance in engineering and science faculties, while females have a stronger presence in the arts and social sciences. Male students, however, no longer dominate the faculty of medicine. Concerning the ongoing textbook review, the Hong Kong Institute of Education considers the question of gender stereotypes to ensure that teachers are aware of the need to maintain a balanced view.
Women's health in Hong Kong has always been accorded high priority, the report states. Mindful of women's important role in health promotion and care for the family, the Government offers a comprehensive range of promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health-care services for women of all ages to safeguard and promote their health and that of their families. Women have equal access to heavily subsidized health care services in hospitals, general out-patient clinics, student health service centres, elderly health centres and specialized clinics, such as those for tuberculosis and chest, skin and social hygiene. They also enjoy ready access to maternal and child health centres, family planning clinics and women's health centres. Depending
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 8 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
on affordability, women also have a choice of services provided by the private and subsidized sectors.
In the area of gender-based violence, a number of laws have been designed to protect women, the report states. Still, wife battering is the most prominent form of domestic violence, and statistics kept by the Social Welfare Department indicate that the number of reported wife-battering cases in the past few years has increased from 204 cases in 1991 to 367 in 1997. In that connection, a wide range of services have been created to help victims of spousal abuse, including medical services, counselling, a hotline service, temporary shelters, child care services, family life education, housing and financial assistance and legal aid. In addition, an interdisciplinary working group on battered spouses, comprising Government representatives and hospital authorities, is working to strengthen coordination among the Government and non-governmental organizations. In a related action, the legislation treating men as the head of the family has been amended.
Introduction of Report
QIN HUASUN, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations, introduced his country's report. He said that China had been one of the first State parties to the Convention, and the Government had always attached great importance to its implementation and actively supported the work of the Committee.
The Chinese delegation was comprised of representatives from the Central Government and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, he said. Delegates of the Central Government were from the Department of Treaty and Law and the Department of International Organizations and Conferences of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Working Committee on Women and Children under the State Council, the Ministry of Public Security, State Ethnic Affairs Commission, the State Family Planning Commission, the All-China Women's Federation and the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations. Representatives of the Hong Kong Government included officials of the Department of Justice, the Home Affairs Bureau, Education and Manpower Bureau, the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare.
China's combined third and fourth reports had been drafted under the charge of the National Working Committee on Women and Children under the State Council, he said. The Committee's basic function was to coordinate among the relevant Government departments to better protect the rights and interests of women and children. Part I of the report mainly gave figures of China's population, Chinese women's political participation, education, health care and employment. The figures laid bare the fact that in the present reality, the equal rights of women had not been fully realized.
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 9 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
Part II described the "Women's Law" and the Programme for the Development of Chinese Women, he continued. To further improve the status of women and better implement the Convention, China had adopted the Women's Law in 1992, based on the Constitution and many other laws pertaining to the protection of women. It was China's first basic law to protect women's rights and interests in a comprehensive and systematic manner. The Women's Law defined four principles: equality between men and women; protecting the special interests of women; gradually improving the social protection of women; and prohibiting the discrimination against, and maltreatment and torture of, women. It set out the political, cultural, educational, labour and economic rights of women, as well as their rights regarding marriage, family and the person.
He said that the Programme for the Development of Chinese Women was the first comprehensive programme on the overall plan and action for women's development, formulated in 1995 after the framework of the Beijing Platform for Action. It had been most effective in pushing the Government at various levels to take concrete steps for women's political participation, employment, education and health care. As a result, the concept of gender equality as stipulated in the laws had been further implemented in reality and a sound basis had been built for the development of women.
Those two documents would have a deep and far-reaching impact on the elimination of the various forms of discrimination against women, the creation of a healthy social environment in which women enjoyed respect and protection and the full participation by women in social development, he added. The report also set out the main measures that had been taken to ensure implementation of the Women's Law. The measures included: the establishment of specialized agencies; formulation of specific implementation measures by the various levels of administration in light of their specific local conditions, nationwide legal awareness campaigns; and review and monitoring of implementation.
Since the Beijing Conference in 1995, the Chinese Government had taken a series of new measures to translate the commitment to reality and implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, he said. To keep the Committee informed of the latest development, in August 1998, the Government had submitted the Addendum of the third and fourth combined periodic reports. The Addendum mainly focused on what the Chinese Government had done in the period between 1996 and the first half of 1998 in eliminating the discrimination against women and further protecting the rights and interests of women. The Government's actions included: revising relevant laws; strengthening the crackdown on criminal activities targeted at women and children; and re-employment measures for workers laid off in the economic restructuring process. The Government also attached importance to the role of non-governmental organizations in promoting social development. The report
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 10 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
and addendum covered non-governmental organization activities in protecting women's rights and interests.
He said that the addendum also included the implementation of the Convention by the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The central Government had assumed responsibility for the international rights and obligations arising from the application of the Convention to the Hong Kong region. According to the Basic Law, in the Hong Kong area, the social, economic and legal systems differed from those of the mainland. Since the previous laws were basically unchanged, the implementation of the Convention in Hong Kong was not entirely the same as on the mainland. The Hong Kong report was drafted separately by that region, and its representatives would present that report tomorrow to the Committee.
Despite the tremendous amount of work done in promoting women's full participation in development and protecting their rights and interests, China was still soberly aware of certain facts, he said. China was a developing country with a huge population, out of which there were over 600 million women, more than a quarter of the world's total. Not entirely free from the remnants of the old feudal thinking and still bound by the social, economic, and cultural development, a number of women in the rural areas were living in poverty. There was still a large gap in the education level between women in the urban areas and those in the rural areas. More than 100 million women were still illiterate.
In addition, in the transition from a planned economy to a market economy and the ever deepening reform process, large numbers of women workers were laid off and found it difficult to find new jobs, he continued. The proportion of women participating in political life was still rather low. Incidence of violence against women's rights was not a rare occurrence and certain social evils had still not been stamped out despite repeated efforts. There was still a long way to go before the various forms of discrimination against women could be eliminated and gender equality could be fully realized. However, China had the determination and the confidence to reach that lofty goal and it welcomed the support of the international community.
Replies by Government
Members of the Chinese delegation then replied to questions posed by Committee experts following the meeting of their pre-sessional working group from 11 to 15 January. Highlights of those replies follow, in the order in which the questions were posed:
-- following the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995, extensive and in-depth publicity on the Programme for the Development of Chinese women had strengthened the leadership's awareness at all levels and resulted in the establishment of a monitoring mechanism;
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 11 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
-- whereas five years ago, there had been no women at the leadership level of eight provinces and autonomous regions, there were now women in leadership positions in all of the provinces, of which 11 had more than one woman leader;
-- the number of people living in poverty had been reduced from 65 million in 1995 to 42 million in 1998;
-- of the more than 7 million people employed each year in the past few years, 40 percent of them were women;
-- nearly the same number of girls as boys were now enrolled in primary schools;
-- in order to protect the cultural and religious rights of minority ethnic groups, the Government had taken a number of concrete steps including the setting up of minority nationality news and publishing institutions, and the application of their traditional medicine and pharmacology;
-- the Compulsory Education Law had stipulated that schools comprising a majority of students of minority nationalities might use the spoken and written languages of those nationalities;
-- at the end of 1997, the overall population in Tibet had been 2.4 million, of which 2.3 had been Tibetans;
-- great importance in Tibet was attached to the medical and health care of women and children, including planned immunization and the coverage of young children of well-organized health care plans;
-- Tibetan women were free to conduct normal religious activities under the protection of the Constitution and laws of the country;
-- as one of the fundamental State policies of China, family planning also applied to minority-populated regions and remote areas;
-- family planning regulations in Tibet were linked to full respect for the Tibetan cultural tradition, ethnic values, religion and customs;
-- since 1979, great socio-economic changes had taken place in China, and women's awareness of equality, self-reliance and participation had been strengthened;
-- there was a wider range of employment opportunities for women in fields such as computers, communications, environmental protection, aviation, engineering, design, property, financing and legal services;
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 12 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
-- women's potential had been further developed, and women entrepreneurs, managers and specialized professionals had appeared in large numbers;
-- women's educational level was improving, including in science and technology fields;
-- owing to the extensive ownership of television sets and radios and the increase of information channels, "women's vision has been broadened and their minds have been freed further"; nevertheless, the reform and "opening- up" had unavoidably produced some negative effects on women;
-- due to the structural adjustment in the economic reform and development towards a socialist market economy, the number of laid-off women workers had increased, and it was difficult for them to be rehired;
-- because of their loss of independent economic income, some women's status at home had become lower, which in turn had led to a greater frequency of family disputes, accompanied by domestic violence or family break-ups;
-- employers of some private business and jointly or solely foreign- funded operations had ignored the provision of labour protection for women in favour of profits instead;
-- the Government was now undertaking vigorous measures to address the problems associated with the economic reform;
-- regarding changes in social services since the reform, the pension, medical care, maternal security and housing systems had been reformed;
-- the Women's Act of 1992 did not contain a specific definition of discrimination, however its stipulations fully expressed the principle of combating gender-based discrimination;
-- since the promulgation of the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women, the National People's Congress had conducted two inspections on enforcement of the law;
-- by the end of 1996, there had been more than 13 million women in Government institutions and enterprises, or nearly 34 per cent of the total;
-- in that same year, women had comprised nearly 40 per cent of the total labour force, 1.6 million more than in 1992;
-- since the promulgation of the women's law, the prominent problems facing rural women, namely their land rights and guardianship of children in the case of divorce, had received greater Government attention;
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 13 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
-- regarding women's personal rights, all law enforcement departments had been taking tough measures and had organized special crack-downs on criminal activities of causing injury or death of women;
-- as a result of those efforts, the cases of trafficking in women and children had been reduced in the last five years;
-- despite the further protection and strengthening of women's rights since the promulgation of the women's law, some problems deserved continued serious attention, such as the shortfall of women in politics, the difficulties for laid-off female workers, and the rise of domestic violence;
-- in order to guarantee women's equal rights to land, the Villagers' Committees undertook not to reduce, by reason of sex, the area or the quality of farmland or grain ration entitlements to women;
-- in setting the amount of yields to be turned over to the State, those Committees would not impose unequal requirements on women;
-- the Villager's Committees would protect rural women's legal land and grain rights following divorce;
-- as the contract farmland was initially distributed to each family according to family size, there had been no discrimination against women; however, with changes in marriage, there had been many cases where women's legal rights to land were not well protected;
-- a new round of farmland contract in the rural areas was under way, and women of ethnic minorities enjoyed the same rights to farmland;
-- the All-China Women's Federation was the country's largest mass organization for all Chinese women;
-- the main measures undertaken by the Government to modify stereotyping of women included advocacy and educational campaigns, training and education programmes, and the elaboration of the programme for the development of Chinese women from 2001 to 2010;
-- the State had also devoted attention to improving the situation of elderly Chinese women, who sometimes earned an income by rearing other women's sons;
-- violence against women had increased in recent years, and was manifested mainly by domestic violence, social violence -- like trafficking, kidnapping, rape, and forced prostitution -- and violence against women in the work place;
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 14 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
-- the historical reason for domestic violence lay in traditional feudal and patriarchal ideas which still had some influence, particularly in rural areas; some women victims mistakenly thought that being beaten by their husbands was a family stigma that they must quietly endure;
-- poor economic development and women's reliance on men was an economic reason for domestic violence, as was the neglect by some people of their family responsibility; in some remote and poverty-stricken rural areas, some mercenary marriages as well as those formed on the basis of an arbitrary decision of a third party had also led to domestic violence;
-- at present, victims of domestic violence in both urban and rural areas could seek help from the police station, neighbourhood office or public security committee;
-- the Government had attached great concern to the incidence of women suicides in rural China, and some institutions had undertaken studies of that social phenomenon with a view to submitting recommendations to the Government;
-- prostitution was illegal in China, and when seized by the police, both the prostitute and the client received the administrative penalty for violating public security, including administrative detention and the imposition of a fine; there was no law in China permitting the opening of a brothel, and organizing, forcing, seducing, sheltering or introducing a woman to prostitution or introducing a man to engage in whoring was a crime;
-- over the years, the Chinese Government had devoted itself to the protection of women's human rights and legal interests through legislation, and it had been giving much more importance to the crack-down on trafficking.
-- The leading bodies of the All-China Women's Federation and local women's federations were elected by national and local women's congresses. The Federation decided its work plans and specific measures on its own, according to its constitution and the demands and interests of Chinese women. Its work was carried out independently, and included reflecting women's opinions and concerns, monitoring the implementation by the Government of policies and laws related to women, putting forward recommendations and suggestions for improvement, conducting poverty alleviation programmes for women and carrying out re-employment projects for laid off women workers.
-- There were many organizations and groups of professional women that were not sponsored by the All-China Women's Federation, such as the Chinese Women's Health and Development Association and the Women's Legal Aid Centre of the Beijing University. They all had their own constitutions and conducted activities according to their own programmes.
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 15 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
-- Major measures taken by the Federation for the promotion of women's participation in decision-making were as follows: to push forward relevant Government departments to formulate programmes for the training and appointment of women for leading positions and to set quotas for women's participation in political decision-making; to strengthen training programmes; to build information networks of talented women and recommend them through various channels; and to carry out extensive publicity campaigns through mass media on gender equality and the significance of women's political participation.
-- The slow increase in the number of women deputies to the National People's Congress was attributed to such factors as that women were still faced with various forms of constraints and discrimination in their political participation, and that women were not actively exercising their right to political participation. Also, they lacked self-confidence and tended to rely on others.
-- With the deepening of reforms, more and more national minority women had come into political and public decision-making bodies. However, due to the constraint of economic development, statistics remained a weak area, especially on rural women.
-- Presently, there were 607,600 national minority women in leading positions nationwide, accounting for 26.6 percent of the total national minority leaders.
-- Among its responsibilities, the Office for Women, Children and Youth, under the Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, carried out research on laws relating to women, children and youth; undertook the drafting of comments for consideration of draft laws by the Congress; and dealt with letters from people regarding women, children and youth.
-- The proportion of females in diplomatic service had climbed instead of dropped. Currently, there were 101 women in diplomatic service at or above the deputy-division-director level, with 29 ambassadors and counsellors.
-- Most illiterates were mainly found in poverty-stricken rural areas, and the majority of them were women and older people. Eliminating illiteracy had become more difficult.
-- The major focus of literacy campaigns was the rural areas. Those campaigns included the following measures: to conduct extensive publicity and advocacy campaigns and mobilize women to get involved; to combine literacy campaigns and technical skills training; to combine literacy campaigns with legal knowledge learning; and to mobilize social forces to participate in anti-literacy campaigns.
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 16 - Press Release WOM/1092 419th Meeting (AM) 1 February 1999
-- The rates of female drop-outs in schools and the girls who could not start school remained higher than that of boys. The main reasons were poverty in the family; insufficient schools in some remote and mountainous areas; and some parents' preference for boys rather than girls.
-- In China, there were few males and females who had received higher education. That was because of a large population in the country, economic constraints and insufficient facilities to meet the needs of the people.
-- To encourage women to receive higher education, attention was given to the nurturing and building up of the sense of gender equality among students in primary schools, middle schools and universities. Girls were encouraged to engage in experiments and activities relating to science and technology, and to take non-traditional subjects.
* *** *