Women Rights in China

WomenRights in China

Asone of the world’s economic and technology powerhouses, China isexpected to be in the frontline in the protection and safeguarding ofwomen rights like its peers. However, this does not appear to be thecase. Violation of women rights in China is not new phenomena itgoes way back in the country’s history. Ancient Chinesephilosophies like Confucius created a society that viewed women to belesser human being as compared to men (Peerenboom, 2005). The resultof this is that it brought up generations of Chinese men whooppressed women and violated their rights. The women rights situationis a humanitarian crisis that needs effective and efficientinterventions to remedy the situation.

Therights of women in China are a delicate issue that attracts even theattention of international human rights lobby groups such as AmnestyInternational. The country’s constitution in together with otherlaws and policies geared towards the promotion of equality betweenmen and women all factors considered. Considering the historicalbackground of the women rights in China, women rights deserve specialattention. The government of the day has recognized this need andcategorized women rights separately from human rights.

Asmentioned in the introduction, most paradigms and philosophies thatare used in China today trace their roots to Chinese Confuciusteachings (Zhou, 2013). As a result, all aspects of women rights areaffected by these teachings. These include property ownership rights,domestic life, political participation, employment and birth control.Globally, China is ranked 35thin the Gender Inequality Index. On matters of women rights, Chinaranks poorly. For example, only 21% of the country’sparliamentarians were women as of 2012 showing that Chinese women donot actively participate in politics compared to men. In theeducation sector, only 55% of Chinese women aged over 25 years haveattained secondary education.

Violenceagainst Women

InChina, domestic violence against women is a common occurrence. Asmost researchers who have studied this issue report, spousal abuse,and marital rape are very common in most Chinese marriages (Wang,2015). However, it is not possible to find accurate data on thismatter since most cases of violence against women are not reported.Typically, violence against women cases and statistics are either notavailable, and when they are, they are not released to the public.Even when they are abused, most women choose not to report theincidences. The reason is that even when they report the cases, nointerventions are made.

Familypressure and societal expectations are the other factors that areseen to keep Chinese women in abusive marriages. Their families andother members of the family give the women constant pressure to stayin marriages, even when they are abused. The duty of keeping thefamily together is the responsibility of the women, no matter thecircumstances. Secondly, most Chinese women are not economicallyempowered (Sha, 2012). As a result, they stay in abusive marriagesbecause they might not be in a position to sustain them if they getseparated or divorced from the husband who is the family’sbreadwinner. Lastly, perpetrators of violence are not prosecuted,encouraging the vice.

Reproductiveand Birth Control Rights Violations

Chinapractices strict control over the reproductive rights of its femalecitizens. Reproduction and access to reproductive health in China aresignificantly controlled by the government of the place. Policies onthis matter made by the government utilize constitutional andcoercive interventions to control the reproductive choices that womenin the country can make (Levitt &amp Merry, 2209). Some of thestrategies used to achieve this goal include fines, sanctions,contraceptives and forced abortions. This comes as a way ofimplementing the 1979 government policy limits every woman to havejust one child as a way of controlling the country’s population.This policy effectively takes away the privilege of choosing thenumber of children that a woman would want to have from the woman.

Onthe flip side, the Chinese government uses incentives such aspensions to encourage families to practice the set family planninglaws and policies. Several policies have been set to ensure that the“one child per couple” policy is implemented in a way that doesnot go against the rights of Chinese citizens, mostly the women.However, as Godziak (2011) argues, such policies have not beenefficiently implemented by the same government that is supposed toimplement them is the party responsible for their violations. Suchviolations include forced contraception and forced abortions on womenwho already have one child. In China’s case, the most popularcontraceptive is the I.U.D. In extreme cases, women who possess“undesirable” traits such as mental illnesses are sterilized toprevent them from giving birth at all. These actions and many otherare a direct violation of the right of Chinese women.

Trafficking,Abduction, and Prostitution

Forcedmarriages and prostitution have created a ready market in whichChinese women are sold or hired out to the highest bidder (Berna,2013). Chinese women are even sold to other countries as prostitutes,mostly in South and East Asia. Despite the government putting inplace several laws and policies to eliminate this occurrence, itstill continues to thrive. Data released by the government ismisleading since it attempts to cover up the truth. Cases in point,roughly 15,000 women were either kidnapped or trafficked in China in1993. This was a fifty percent rise from the previous year’s figureof 10,000 women.

Thethriving business of abduction and trafficking of Chinese isdifficult for various reasons. The biggest factor is the leniencythat the Chinese government shows towards the people responsible forthis business (Li, 2015). It is only recently that the government hasstarted taking serious measures against people who buy their wivesfrom their families or human trafficking rings. Previously,government officials would not let the abductions and traffickingcontinue even when they knew what was going on and who wasresponsible. The action would only be taken if that family of theabducted woman or the abducted woman herself filed an officialcomplaint with the relevant authorities.

Traffickingand abduction of Chinese women cannot be separate from prostitution.The number of female sex workers has been constantly on the rise inChina. Their number is estimated to have risen from 25,000 in 1985 toa little over million in the turn of the new millennium. Otherfigures put the figure at 10 million by 2001. The high number offemale sex workers is not something to worry about but in China thereis cause for alarm. The reason is that this high number of female sexworkers creates an environment that promotes the prevalence ofsexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDs (Jacka, 2014).This situation is not a new phenomenon. It goes way back to isolatedincidences in Chinese history. For instance, in 1933, an STI epidemichit the city of Shanghai.

Employmentand Education

Whenexamining the women rights situation in China, another area thatcomes to light is education and employment. In the country, accordingto Poston and Yaukey (2013), huge disparities exist between men andwomen in the areas of education and employment. The Law on theProtection of Women Rights and Interests that was enacted in 1992 hasdone little to remedy this situation. Going up the education levelsin the Chinese school system, the number of women is seen to declinesignificantly at every level. For example, in universities andcolleges in the country, women only make a quarter of the number ofstudents in such institutions. Most of these institutions set higherentry points for the girls compared to the boys. As a result, veryfew women can manage to join.

Thediscrimination against women in China does not stop at educationlevel. The ripple effect trickles down to employment. Women have adifficult time securing jobs compared to the men. Even when theysecure these jobs, they get way less pay in contrast to what the menwith their qualifications earn (Zhou, 2013). When companies andgovernment institutions are sacking workers for one reason or theother, women are the first to be axed. In other incidences, somecompanies advertise job vacancies but insist that only men shouldapply, locking out all the qualified women. True to this reality,women in China make up only about 40% of the labor force in thecountry. They also make up about 60% of the jobless population in thecountry.

Violationsagainst Female Children

Violationof women rights in China is not limited to grown women. It goesacross all stage of the girl child as they develop, even before birth(Zheng, 2015). The one child policy and male child preference createsan environment that promotes discrimination against the girl child.For example, unregistered female children in China cannot get a legalstatus in the country. As a result, they live like foreigners intheir country. For them, getting basic services such as admission tothe schools, health care and other services provided by the statebecomes difficult. With no legal identity, most of these femalechildren waste away in orphanages at the expense of their developmentand education.

Thetechnological development in China, just like many developedcountries, enables the identification of the sex during prenatalcare. When parents who prefer having a male child discover that thewife is pregnant with a girl, most of them abort the fetus (Levitt &ampMerry, 2009). Figures show that roughly, 35,000 abortions occur inChina every day. Although this practice is banned by the government,it continues to thrive especially in rural parts of the country. As aresult, the Chinese male to female infants stands at 114 boys forevery 100 girls. This figure is higher than the global ratio of 105boys for every 100 girls. In some areas of the country, the ratio iseven higher than the national figure. Other practices that violatethe rights of female children in China include killing of femaleinfants, hiding female births and neglecting of female newborns andbabies.

TheRole of Women Rights Activists

Thewomen rights situation in China brings to light the fate of activistswho raise their voices to advocate for change as far as the rights ofChinese citizens mostly women are involved. Advocating for therights of women in China is almost regarded as a punishable crime. Asa result, many women rights activists have been harassed, detainedand prosecuted for raising their voices on this issue (Keck &ampSikkink, 2014). Despite appearing to support the empowerment of womenand the defense of their rights, the Chinese government is seen tooppress women activists who campaign for women rights. A recentreport by the Amnesty International gives a detailed look at how theChinese government led by President Xi mistreats the same women itclaims to empower and defend. It calls this situation hypocritical.

PresidentXi’s government uses several harsh techniques to suppress womenrights activists mainly intimidation and harassment. Since heascended to power, his government continues to detain more than tenwomen rights campaigners and persecute even more (Berna, 2013).Detention, harassment, and constant intimidation have had a negativeimpact on the gains that been made as far as women rights areconcerned. Case in point is Su Changlan, who faces a possible jailterm for her active involvement in women rights advocacy in thecountry. Apart from calling for an end to the violence against womenin China, Su also campaigns for ending of forced marriages and thecountry’s mandatory family planning policies.

Apartfrom harassment and intimidation, death in detention is the otherchallenge that Chinese women rights activists face. When they aredetained, the women who are vocal in advocating for women rights aredenied the basic of needs while in detention (Gozdiak,2011).They are deprived of important services such as medical care. Forexample, Cao Shunli, an activist died of organ failure while indetention. The Chinese authorities have not explained how she died oreven held anyone accountable. In other instances, landlords rentingtheir houses to activists are forced to evict them by governmentofficials. This scenario paints a grim picture of how women rightsactivists are treated in China, mostly by the government and itsagencies.

Apartfrom mistreatment by the government, women rights activists in Chinaface serious opposition from civilians. From way back, the Chinesesociety is one that views men to be dominant over women. Most men inChina today still hold and practice this paradigm. Consequently, thisputs them on a collision course with women rights activists. Theyfeel that by campaigning for the empowerment of women and equalitybetween men and women, the activists are threatening their age-oldsocial status. As a matter of fact, almost all women rights activistsin China are women. Most men oppose their endeavors. The few men whosupport their call are not as active and vocal as they should be.This is because they fear being viewed as traitors or sellouts bychauvinistic men who support violations of women rights.

Theopposition that feminists face in China paints a rough picture of howdire the women rights status in the country is. Most activists areworried by the fact that most of the efforts to end women rightsoriginate from external forces, mainly global human rights anddeveloped countries, for example, the United States (Keck &ampSikkink, 2014). According to them, the biggest problem is that mostChinese citizens do not acknowledge the reality of the women rightssituation in the country. This scenario poses the question that mostfeminists ask, how will China solve its women rights problem if itdoes not view it as a problem in the first place? They insist that ifthe measures necessary to rectify the situation are not formed andimplemented now, the situation will be worse and harder to rectifythan it is in the future.


Therights of women in China are a delicate issue that has always been atthe focus of human rights groups and the international community.Even before birth, the rights of the female child in China areviolated in many ways. The one-child policy coupled with the Chinesetradition of male-child preference creates an environment in whichviolation of women rights is the norm rather than the exception.Common violations of women rights in China include trafficking andabduction,violence against women and unequal treatment inemployment and education. The policies that have been set to remedythis situation have not been successful. It is in this light thewomen rights activists attempt to advocate change on the same. They,however, face various challenges as they promote their feministagendas. These challenges include opposition from men and harassmentand intimidation by the government. The Chinese government with thehelp of the international community should find a lasting solution tothis crisis. This intervention will stop the violation of womenrights and promote equality between men and women in China.


Berna,I. B. (2013). Democracy and Gender Inequality in China. Journalof Research in Gender Studies,3(1),119.

Gozdiak,E. M. (2011). Dataand research on human trafficking: Bibliography of research-basedliterature.DIANE Publishing.

Jacka,T. (2014). Ruralwomen in urban China: Gender, migration, and social change.Routledge.

Keck,M. E., &amp Sikkink, K. (2014). Activistsbeyond borders: Advocacy networks in international politics.Cornell University Press.

Levitt,P., &amp Merry, S. (2009). Vernacularization on the ground: localuses of global women rights in Peru, China, India and the UnitedStates. GlobalNetworks,9(4),441-461.

Li,K. (2015). “What He Did Was Lawful”: Divorce Litigation andGender Inequality in China. Law&amp Policy,37(3),153-179.

Peerenboom,R. (2005). Assessing human rights in China: Why the double standard?.CornellInternational Law Journal,38,71-172.

PostonJr, D. L., &amp Yaukey, D. (Eds.). (2013). Thepopulation of modern China.Springer Science &amp Business Media.

Sha,Y. U. (2012). Analysis on Possibility and Limit of China FeminisimLocalization. Journalof Hunan Institute of Humanities, Science and Technology,4,020.

Wang,Q. (2015). Leta Hong Fincher, Leftover Women: The Resurgence ofGender Inequality in China. TheCopenhagen Journal of Asian Studies,32(2),133-136.

Zheng,W. (2015). Detention of the Feminist Five in China. FeministStudies,41(2),476-482.

Zhou,J. (2013). Keys to women liberation in Communist China: An historicaloverview. Journalof International Women Studies,5(1),67-77.