Lawmakers Propose Including Gender Equality into Legislation Assessment

March 13, 2015
By Zhou Yunxi and Liu XiaEditor: Amanda Wu
Lawmakers Propose Including Gender Equality into Legislation Assessment
Graph showing the age distribution of women who pay attention to China's annual "Two Sessions" meetings [Xinhua]

The Standing Committee of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), China's main legislative body, has already stated that amending the current Legislation Law is part of its plan to further improve China's legal system.

As gender equality is an importance principle of China's constitution, several deputies have furthermore suggested adding it to the draft of the amendment to the Legislation Law. This would follow the current strategy of running the country by "rule of law," and implement the basic national policy of gender equality from a legislative standpoint.

Strengthening Top-Level Design to Enhance Gender Equality

NPC deputy Li Qiu stated that China has made progress in advancing gender equality. "Legally, China has introduced many favorable policies and regulations for women and children. Legislatively, China is about to issue its first anti-domestic violence law to further protect these groups. Politically, China has set up a quota system to secure female representation among the country's officials, NPC deputies and members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference," added Li.

"However, China still has some problems to tackle, such as the imbalanced sex ratio of births and the infringement on the rights and interests of 'left-behind' women and children," said Li.

"Left-behind" women refer to underprivileged women in rural China, whose husbands live away from their rural homes most of the year, seeking better-paying jobs in bigger cities, while "left-behind" children are children whose parents have left them in their rural hometowns to work in the cities, often by themselves or in the care of relatives.

"Our country should pay more attention to the disadvantaged people while regulating its top-level design, namely, legislation," said Li.

NPC Deputy Wu Hongqin —  who serves as president of the Fujian Women's Federation in southwest China's Fujian Province —  said, "In reality, some laws and regulations are not effectively enforced, so discrimination against women and violation of children's rights happens occasionally. There is a long way to go from the legal equality of men and women to the actual equality."

Wu pointed out that as some laws and polices fail to take into account the actual differences between women and men, women's rights and interests suffer infringement to different degrees in reality.

For example, the draft public assistance act released in 2013 stipulates that the householder or other family members can apply for the minimum living allowance with the agreement of the householder.

"It seems that there is nothing wrong with the stipulation. However, the male is usually the householder of a family in real life, so this stipulation might strengthen the male's control and the fruition of public assistance resources, which goes against family harmony as well as gender equality," explained Wu.

Safeguarding Women's Rights from the Source

NPC Deputy Gao Li — who serves as vice-president of the Anhui Women's Federation in the east China province — noted that the equality of men and women is the basic right that the constitution grants to the people; in a bid to regulate the legislation, the draft of the amendment to the Legislation Law should embody gender equality.

"China is one of the first 49 countries pledging to include gender consciousness into the mainstream of social development and decision-making," continued Gao. "The China National Program for Women's Development (2011–2020) has emphasized strengthening the gender equality assessment of regulations and policies."

To this end, Gao proposed making the assessment of gender equality an important part of the legislative assessment to evaluate the different influences of laws and policies on men and women, so as to prevent and reduce infringement on the rights and interests of women and children, and to ensure that gender equality is squarely implemented in various fields of economic and social development.

Currently, under the guidance of the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), some provinces, regions and municipalities have explored mechanisms to evaluate forthcoming local laws and policies from the social gender perspective, whereby suggestions and evaluations can be offered as part of the necessary process of making laws and policies.

Practice has proven that it is necessary and feasible to evaluate gender equality in laws and policies so as to safeguard women's rights from the source. However, regional mechanisms are lacking in ability to evaluate national laws and policies.

"Accordingly, the assessment of gender equality in laws and policies should also go through the whole process of legislation and jurisdiction at the national level," said Wu.

Developing Scientific and Democratic Gender Equality Assessment Mechanism

Wu put forward four suggestions on how to build a gender equality assessment mechanism from the legislative source: A national gender equality assessment institution should be set up to evaluate and offer advice on laws and policies; a major assessment route map should be drawn up, with landmarks pinpointed to include gender equality into the mainstream of decision making; the scale of the assessment should be designated to make gender consciousness cover the whole process of making and enforcing laws and policies; and assessment procedures should be set up to promote the orderly implementation of gender equality assessment.

"China has always attached importance to women and children in legislation," said Kan He, deputy-director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee.

"The legislation is set to reconcile the greatest common dividing factor of people's interests by taking various advice and reflecting the objective law," added Kan. "Although the number of male NPC deputies is somewhat larger than female NPC deputies, the NPC has still approved the Law on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests, which shows that all deputies recognize that women's rights and interests should be safeguarded."

"The NPC is a place to reflect people's voices and the NPC represents women," emphasized Kan.

(Source: China Women's News/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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Background
  • Legal Environment for Women and Children

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