Revisions proposed to key women’s rights legislation

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A draft list of revisions to the Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress for deliberation on Dec 20. The revisions would make major changes to the law, which first came into effect 30 years ago.

The revisions aim to clarify necessary measures taken by the state to gradually improve various systems designed to protect women’s rights and interests, eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and prohibit any restrictions on women’s exercise of legal rights.

The draft sets out rules against gender discrimination in education and employment, improved measures to prevent and stop sexual harassment and new provisions for economic compensation for housework at the time of divorce.

Below are the key changes in the draft law:

  • Ensuring women have equal access to education: when recruiting students, schools and universities shall not reject female applicants or raise admission standards for women, apart from for special majors stipulated by the state.
  • Clarifying circumstances of gender discrimination in employment: in the recruitment process, employers shall not be allowed to restrict recruitment of male workers or give priority to male workers unless otherwise specified by the state; and further inquiry or investigation on the marital status or willingness for marriage or childbirth is not allowed.
  • Strengthen labor protection for female employees in special periods: employers shall not reduce wages and benefits of female employees, dismiss female employees, or unilaterally terminate labor contracts or service agreements due to marriage, pregnancy, maternity leave, breastfeeding, etc.
  • Protecting rural women’s land and related interests: women enjoy equal rights with men in terms of gaining membership of rural collective economic organizations, land contract management, income distribution of collective economic organizations, resettlement compensation for land expropriation or requisition and the use of homesteads.
  • Adding new provisions for economic compensation for housework at the time of divorce: when the woman bears more obligations for raising children, caring for the elderly, assisting the man with work or other tasks, she has the right to demand compensation from the man at the time of divorce. The compensation methods shall be negotiated by both parties. If the agreement fails, a lawsuit may be filed in the people’s court.
  • Improving effective practices to prevent and stop sexual harassment in schools and the workplace: schools should establish a work system to prevent sexual harassment. Employers should take measures to prevent and stop sexual harassment targeting women.
  • Prohibiting the use of non-violent methods against women: it is forbidden to abuse, abandon, mutilate and use all other acts to violate women’s life and health rights; it is forbidden to use superstition, mental control and other methods to harm women.
  • Forbidding infringement upon women’s personal rights due to marriage and relationship disputes: it is forbidden to harass women on the grounds of dating, befriending, or after cohabitation or divorce, and to disclose or spread women’s personal information.
  • Clarifying the ways women can defend themselves legally when rights are violated: if women’s legal rights and interests are violated, they can seek help from women’s organizations such as the All China Women’s Federation. Local legal aid agencies and judicial organs shall provide assistance to women with special needs.

In Brief

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