|Officials attend the bimonthly session of the NPC Standing Committee held in Beijing from August 27-31. [Xinhua]|
Senior lawmakers underscored the principle of gender equality and the protection of women's rights in regard to debt division between couples, land registration in rural areas and sexual harassment at the workplace, during a recent deliberation of China's planned civil code.
The draft civil code, which contains sections on property; contracts; personal rights; marriage and family; inheritance; and, rights infringement, was submitted to a bimonthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee in Beijing from August 27-31.
Shen Yueyue, vice-chairperson of the standing committee of NPC and president of the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), addressed the event.
Shen noted that the complication of civil code is a major legislative task put forward by the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core. The NPC Standing Committee has attached great importance to the compiling work. Zhou Guangquan, deputy director of the NPC Constitution and Law Committee, said the draft code should draw inspiration from judicial interpretations of the marriage law by the Supreme People's Court (SPC) in a move to better define joint debt between spouses.
Deng Li, member of the NPC Standing Committee, noted that the public has given warm praise to the SPC's judicial interpretation, which was released earlier this year and endorsed the principle of requiring a co-signature by husbands and wives in the hearing of debt division cases.
Deng thus advised to make a revision of the third clause of the 841st article, which specifies the definition of joint debt between a couple, in the draft code.
According to her, the clause shall state that "Husbands and wives should not pay for their spouse's excesses, unless the creditors can prove the money has been used for the family, common production or business and that the debt is incurred by both the husband and the wife or acknowledged by a spouse thereafter."
Shen proposed to add a clause between the 841st and 842nd articles into the draft code.
She noted that "Both husbands and their wives have the right to learn the actual status of their joint properties and cannot conceal the information from each other. Relevant government departments and institutes should provide necessary assistance to any side of a couple when he or she enquires about the number of properties registered in the name of his or her spouse during their marriage."
When talking about how to better guarantee rural women's right to contracted farmlands and homesteads as specified in the 128th and 158th articles separately, Shen emphasized that the names of all members in a household should be simultaneously be written by relevant authorities into their registration books.
Shen said the specifications on women's land-related rights have been already added to the revised law on land contract in rural areas, and continued that the legislative departments shall make similar statements concerning their homestead rights, although the former Ministry of Land and Resources touched on the issue in its circular in 2016.
The circular states that "As an indispensible component of a household, women's rights in relation to homesteads must be given expression in the registration book and rights certificate for real estate. For those women who have moved out of their original collective economic organizations concerned at the time of marriage, their homestead use rights should be legally verified and registered in the registration book of new households when they automatically lose their previous rights."
In response to social concerns, the draft code also includes a provision on anti-sexual harassment measures in its 790th article. However, Shen urged lawmakers to add a clause, according to which victims can seek compensation from their employers if the latter fail to take reasonable measures to prevent, stop and deal with their complaints about sexual harassment, into the draft.
She explained that the proposed clause will further increase employers' awareness and capabilities in the prevention of sexual harassment in their workplace.
Tan Lin, a member of the NPC's Environment Protection and Resource Conservation Committee, voiced her views toward the second clause of the 842th article, which also involves the division of common properties between a couple during their marriage.
Tan explained that the clause grants consent to the request of dividing common properties between a couple if one side fails to pay for medical expenditures incurred by his or her family members such as the elderly and children, of whom the spouse has legal-binding duties to take care, during the time they are married.
Moreover, she pointed out that the observance of gender equality should be found not only in households but also in workplaces and schools.
Du Liming, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, admitted that the draft code has not yet given enough attention to many other issues such as China's aging society, unmarried cohabitation, and the difficulties faced by seniors who have lost their only child or lived separately from their adult children.
(Source: China Women's News/Translated and edited by Women of China)
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