Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Women get their rightful place in society

By Zou Xiaoqiao (China Daily) Updated: 2013-12-14 07:58

China has made remarkable achievements in promoting women's development and guaranteeing women's human rights since the founding of the People's Republic of China, particularly over the last 35 years.

Before 1949, the overwhelming majority of Chinese women were downtrodden and could never have their basic rights guaranteed and only very few women were involved in society. More than 90 percent of women were illiterate.

With the PRC being founded, women's political, economic, cultural and other rights have been guaranteed by relevant laws, and since the launch of reform and opening-up gender equality has been emphasized as part of all-round social progress, and gender equality has been promoted as a basic national policy to promote China's social development.

Policies have also been introduced to promote women's participation in health, education, the economy, social security and law, and also seek to optimize the social environment for women's development.

In response to new problems and challenges that have emerged since the launch of reform and opening-up, the government has constantly improved the legal framework to protect women's rights and promote gender equality, introduced the Marriage Law, the Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women, and more than 100 other laws and regulations.

Take education for example, China has made substantial progress in eliminating the gender gap that once existed in all levels of education. In 2011, the net enrollment rate of girls in primary school was 99.8 percent. Women's participation in higher education has also increased, they accounted for 50.89 percent of master's degree candidates in 2011, an increase of 24.79 percent on the number in 2010, and women accounted for 36.13 percent of PhD students, up 14.63 percent from 2010.

Remarkable progress has been made in women's healthcare. A Chinese woman's life expectancy was 77 in 2010, four years more than in 2000. In addition, hospital births have risen sharply nationwide, from 72.9 percent in 2000 to 98.7 percent in 2011. Recently more than 13 million rural women have benefited from free screening for cervical and breast cancer, and up to 60 million are expected to benefit from this project between 2012 to 2015.

Women's participation in political decision-making continues to grow. Among the deputies to the 12th National People's Congress 699 or 23.4 percent are women, 2.07 percent more than in the previous congress.

More women have entered knowledge-intensive industries such as computers, finance and insurance, and they have become an important force in the development of industry. In social sectors such as education, culture and arts, radio, film and television, as well as health and sports, the proportion of women is more than men. Among the self-employed almost 21 percent are women, and 25 percent of entrepreneurs are women.

Under the active promotion of the All-China Women's Federation, the government has implemented a policy of interest-subsidized, small-sum, guaranteed loans for women in order to clear the capital bottleneck faced by urban and rural women wanting to start a business. From 2009 to 2012, more than 100 billion yuan ($16.47 billion) in loans were offered.

To further crack down on the trafficking of women and children, the government has established an anti-trafficking mechanism that embodies prevention, crackdown, relief and recovery.

The government has pushed for the development of women's human rights in China with visible hands, which has in turn improved the lives of Chinese women. The historical progress is the foundation for advancement of women's rights in the future.

The author is a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

(China Daily 12/14/2013 page5)

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