Women′s rights lag behind in China | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 08.03.2010
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Asia

Women's rights lag behind in China

The first international day to mark women's economic, political and social achievements, was in 1911. Today, a handful of countries recognize International Women’s Day as a national holiday, including China.

Chinese women often abort when they find out they are expecting a girl

Chinese women often abort when they find out they are expecting a girl

Figures released by the UN on Monday estimate that around 85 million women are missing from India and China.

The report says these women died from discriminatory health care and neglect or were killed before or after birth. It adds many problems women face today are due to traditions that are rooted across the Asian continent.

When Chairman Mao founded the People's Republic of China, equality for women was written into the constitution

When Chairman Mao founded the People's Republic of China, equality for women was written into the constitution

However, in theory, inequality does not exist in China: When the People’s Republic was founded in 1949, equality for women was written into the country’s constitution.

Gap between theory and practice

Astrid Lipinsky, an expert on women’s rights in China at the University of Vienna, said that there was a discrepancy between theory and practice.

"There have been many new laws to regulate women’s rights, to see that women are treated equally. But China is also an Asian country where laws are first and foremost, just ink and paper.

"Whether or not these laws are practiced is another question. Depending on education and literacy levels, these laws are largely unknown throughout the country."

School is compulsory in China but in some villages girls are pulled out earlier than their brothers

School is compulsory in China but in some villages girls are pulled out earlier than their brothers

China has introduced nine-year compulsory schooling for boys and girls but "it is a national policy that is not upheld in all parts of China. There are still villages in which parents send their sons to school for the full nine years, but pull their daughters out earlier."

More rights in Hong Kong but no equality yet

Siu Chunyii is a working woman from Hong Kong. She became a journalist after experiencing inequality in the film sector. She says there are many fields in which equal rights are still an alien notion.

While women have more rights in Hong Kong than in China, she says, men and women are far from being completely equal.

"Very few bosses are open minded, they think women are not so controlled in their emotions. Some women journalists perform very well but in our media organizations, 80 percent of the chief positions are held I think by men."

Traditional Chinese patriarchal values prevail

Siu Chunyii adds that although Hong Kong is a modern, progressive place, traditional Chinese patriarchal values are still anchored in society.

Although Hong Kong is modern and progressive, patriarchal values are prevalent

Although Hong Kong is modern and progressive, patriarchal values are prevalent

But she says the situation is changing because there are more and more women’s organizations fighting for equal rights and women are less afraid to voice their opinions.

Lipinsky mentions another problem: "I believe China’s largest problem with inequality is not inequality between men and women, but inequality and discrimination against people from rural areas in China. They don't have the same rights as city people. The government is trying to change this, but China is such a large country that it will take a long time."

In such a large and diverse nation torn between tradition and modernity, the first step toward reaching equality must be made through literacy.

Author: Sarah Berning
Editor: Anne Thomas

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