Exploring Gender Equality from the Perspective of Law and Policy

February 12, 2015
By Yao PengEditor: Kathy Cao

Jointly founded by the Hubei Women's Federation and the Hubei Women's Studies Society, the Gender Equality Forum, to be held regularly in Hubei colleges going forward, was started by the two organizations at Central China Normal University (CCNU).

The January 20 seminar on the exploration into gender Issues in the perspective of law and policy is an event affiliated with the forum and was attended by experts and scholars, who shared their opinions and held in-depth discussions on these issues.

Gender equality represents not only an unvarying theoretical problem but a constant practical problem as well. The concept of gender equality reinforces the notion not only that all people are equal before the law but also that the two genders supplement each other, creating a sum that is greater than its component parts. The rule of law guarantees the implementation of social equality and justice. Only once women's rights and interests are respected and upheld by law will true societal equality and justice have been achieved.

Legal Deficiencies

According to the forum, the current legislation in China is confined mainly to women's physiological gender and the protection of their role as a vulnerable group, ignoring the protection of women's equal rights and social status based on their social gender. Some regulations not only fail to protect women's rights and interests but even go so far as to become constraints, producing a contrary effect.

Sun Jin, a professor of Wuhan University, talked about China's legal deficiencies in regulating gender discrimination — deficiencies that include both a lack of legislative concepts and lack of legislative content.

"First of all, gender discrimination has not been properly defined, even in major anti–gender discrimination laws. Secondly, Chinese law's rough demarcation of women's rights and interests cannot provide women with sufficient protection in these areas; and as a result, many laws and regulations meant to address such issues have not been implemented in practice," said Sun.

Sun said that the existing laws have not provided specific measures to relieve women of discrimination and do not lay proper blame on those who discriminate against others.

In Sun's opinion, a law on anti–gender discrimination is urgently needed to govern and eradicate both explicit and implicit forms of discrimination.

Wang Ting, a professor of Hubei University, expressed the belief that social gender perspectives are of particular importance given China's socialist "rule by law" makeup.

"Although great strides have been made in the legal construction of gender equality, the lack of perspective on gender issues — in which women and men are treated and evaluated by the same standard — also reflects the inequality between genders in China," said Wang

Wang suggested that laws constructed from men's perspective need reconstruction to properly and sufficiently reflect the needs and interests of women.

"The establishment of a series of legal safeguarding mechanisms — such as a mechanism for evaluating the effects of social gender, a mechanism for evaluating the effect of governments' fiscal revenue on women and men from a gender perspective, a mechanism for gender equality in education and a mechanism for coordinating interest in gender equality — could help turn disparate treatment into equal treatment, giving substance to the end goal of equality," said Wang.

XueHui, a professor of CCNU, emphasized promoting justice of society as a whole — and the developing an increased legal awareness among women represents an important component to this cause.

"With the advancement of China's legal development process, attention should be paid to cultivating women's legal awareness and way of thinking. The development of women's law-based thoughts and methods would ultimately help them to protect themselves by way of the law," said Xue.

Long Jingyun, another professor of CCNU, further proposed a unified effort in advancing women's legal awareness.

In her point of view, further publicity of rule of law could strengthen women's legal awareness; improvement of the legal system for women could enhance women's legal status; development of NGOs for women could lead them to play a more significant role in the rule of law; and the establishment of public-interest litigation systems for women's rights could fill the vacancy in this area.

"These measures would help to remedy Chinese women's current deficiencies in legal awareness and would help to drive women ahead to promote the rule of law. In this way, true rule of law could ultimately be achieved in China, by the joint effort from both genders," said Long.

Rural Women

In rural areas, women are subjected to a greater amount of unequal treatment than their urban counterparts. Women's rights and interests have been suppressed by the "traditions" that violate gender equality and infringe on women's legal rights. In some areas, women's land rights and interests have been severely violated in the interest of urbanization and industrialization as well as in rural land transfer and scale operations. These phenomena have led to the futility, in some urban areas, of laws and policies that were meant to protect women's rights and interests and have attracted the attention of women workers and researchers.

A survey conducted by the Jiangsu Women's Federation shows that 57.2 percent of village regulations and non-governmental agreements do not even mention gender equality and that 73.0 percent of those that do actually mention gender equality focus only on marriage and family planning.

"Though recent years have seen a decrease in gender discrimination within regulations, such unequal treatment of women remains an unfortunate reality," said Zhang Yongying, an associate researcher at the Women's Studies Institute of China.

Based on this phenomenon, Zhang, proposed four amendments to enhance gender equality in village regulations and non-governmental agreements: The content should reflect the principle of gender equality; women should play an important role in making or revising these regulations; local governments should review the regulations frequently; departments for civil affairs and women's federations should lead wider publicity and further guidance on gender equality.

Based on his rich work experience in rural areas, Yu Aimin, a professor of Huazhong Agricultural University(HZAU) in Wuhan, Hubei Province, believes that the infringement of women's land rights and interests stems from gender discrimination in feudal culture, changes to the economic interests and landscape of China, and a lack of adequate support from laws and policies.

"Moreover, the existing discriminatory regulations and people's lack of proper awareness for gender equality and discrimination worsen the situation," said Yu.

He thus proposed four suggestions to solve the problem: to improve the laws and regulations in order to provide legal support in protecting women's rights; to further popularize relevant laws in order to create a culture of protecting rights by way of the law; to promote the publicity of favorable policies in order to lead women in rural areas to understand the principle ofbenefit distribution; and finally to improve the safeguarding mechanismin order to ensure the social security of women.

After interviewing 50 female village officers, Li Qin, professor of CCNU, believes the gender equality landscape to be even more obstacle-ridden for women participating in village management.

"Subjected to societal pressures and misunderstanding from their family members at the same time, female village officers find themselves in an awkward predicament, which highlights the importance of research and improvement in this field," said Li.

Li's research found that villages with more female officers tend to have a more gender-friendly environment, gaining much support from local governments and women's organizations.

Li proposed four dimensions in constructing adiversified support system for women participating in village management: organizations for religious women, gender-friendly political environment, preferential policies and projects from the local government, and national-policy guarantees and international influence.

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

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