China still cold to women’s rights and gender parity

Liberation of women was one of the main agendas of the Chinese communist
party since its inception while the Beijing government made gender equality
its official policy in the 1990s. The world’s second-biggest economy appears
to be quite far from achieving its goal of gender parity as women in China
still suffer from male domination, denial of basic rights to women.1 Patriarchal oppression, discrimination at the workplace, sexual harassment,
lower representation in the secretariat and legislature are some of the major
issues women in China are facing right now. And to their dismay, China lacks
programmes for their empowerment and even strong laws to stop their
exploitation. China’s performance assessed in the 2021 Global Gender Gap
Report has been deteriorating and has been below the global average.

China tried to control the #MeToo movement by either refusing to take
cognisance of the complaints or burdening the victims with the demand of
proof, fines or counter-complaints. Even a star tennis player Peng Shui had
dramatically disappeared from public view after she alleged that a top official
pressurised her into having sex. Social activist Lu Pin said Chinese
authorities cracked down against the feminist had made their fight against
suppression and sexual harassment difficult. “Women’s anger at maledominated power and anger at feminism being suppressed by the state are two waves of anger that are entwined after feminism was labelled as a
hostile foreign force,” she said.

Chinese women face unfair employment practices as they have to jump over
the unnecessary hurdles to keep up with the men workers. They are asked
about their maternity and pregnancy status during job interviews, which
often become a ground for rejections. “Many advertisers on recruitment
sites explicitly stated that they only hire married women who have already
given birth,” said Ms Ma, a Chinese working woman. Another such woman
named Liu Yiran had to pay a heavy price for being pregnant. On informing
about her pregnancy, her employer published an advertisement for Yiren’s
position, replaced her with a new recruit and stopped her salary.
women in China go through such harrowing experiences every year despite
the government’s promise of relief. Poor enforcement of laws and rules has
caused gender and pregnancy-based discrimination in China.

All this has had a toll on the share of working women. The women’s labour
force participation has dropped to 60.5 percent in 2019 from 73.02 percent
in 1990.9 The majority of women feel adverse work environment for
pregnant women is the main reason. Even some companies explicitly
mention that only men must apply for job positions. Alibaba Group Holding,
Baidu and Tencent Holdings are among the global giants that prefer “men
only” for jobs positions. Even national civil service jobs state job postings
are for “men only,” “men preferred,” or “suitable for men.” Its share was 13
percent in 2017 and 19 percent in 2018.11 “The Chinese government claims
it’s committed to gender equality in employment, but even its own hiring
practices are still deeply discriminatory,” said Yaqiu Wang, China researcher
at Human Rights Watch.

The humiliation of women in China does not just stop here. They are
subjected to sexual objectification as well. “Looking for a pretty female,
must be taller than 1.70 metres, with fine features.” — It is not a marriage
advertisement but a job posting for a saleswoman in China. Such
advertisements are rampant in China. Women in China are paid one-fifth
less than what is paid to their male counterparts. “The average monthly
salary for women in China is 6,497 yuan (USD 970), 78.2 per cent of a
man’s wages. The gap is 8.7 percentage points bigger than it was a year
ago,” found a survey by online recruiter Boss Zhipin.

Activists in China regularly raise the issues of sexual objectification and
suppression of women. However, authorities have been found to be rarely
taking action against the complaints. Often these activists are detained and
arrested. Chinese police had arrested female activists protesting against
sexual harassment on public transportation a day before International
Women’s Day in 2015.15 Only 17 percent of women hold top positions in
company management, secretariats and legislature. Moreover, their
representation is just one quarter in the communist party membership while
there is not a single woman in the party’s most powerful group– Politburo
Standing Committee.16 The current situation of women is in complete
contradiction of Mao’s famous words, ‘Women hold up half the sky.’






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