Women in China
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2010)|
A woman in rural Jiangxi
|Gender Inequality Index|
|Rank||132 out of 146|
|Maternal mortality (per 100,000)||37 (2010)|
|Women in parliament||21.3% (2012)|
|Females over 25 with secondary education||54.8% (2010)|
|Women in labour force||67.7% (2011)|
|Global Gender Gap Index|
|Rank||69th out of 135|
October 1, 1949 marks the formal establishment of the People's Republic of China. Since 1949, the government of the People's Republic of China has actively promoted the cultural, social, economic and political roles of women in order to improve women's liberation. The new government of the People's Republic made a commitment to achieve equality between women and men. While advancing towards equality among men and women, the efforts met resistance in a traditionally Confucian society of male superiority.
Although equality amongst men and women has been a long term goal of the People's Republic of China, the dramatic reformations that followed the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) have inconsistently affected women's empowerment and status in China. Studies shows that Chinese women experienced rapid progress in terms of gender equality during the Cultural Revolution. When the People's Republic of China was established, employed women accounted for only 7 percent of the workforce; whereas in 1992 women's participation in the workforce had increased to account for 38 percent. Women's representation in higher educational institutions has also increased since the establishment of the People's Republic of China. Reports of female infanticide following the execution of the One-child policy indicated the persistence of women's low status in China.
Marriage and family planning
Traditional marriage in prerevolutionary China was a contract between families rather than between two individuals. The parents of the soon-to-be groom and bride arrange the marriage with an emphasis on the alliance between the two families. Spouse selection was based on family needs and the socioeconomic status of the potential mate, rather than love or attraction. Although the woman’s role varied slightly depending on the social status of the husband, typically her main duty was to provide a son in order to continue the family name. An arranged marriage was accomplished by a matchmaker who acted as a link between two families. The arrangement of a marriage involved the negotiation of a bride price, gifts to be bestowed to the bride’s family, and occasionally a dowry of clothing, furniture, or jewelry from the family of the bride for use in her new home. The exchange of monetary compensation for a woman’s hand in marriage was also utilized in purchase marriages in which women were seen as property that could be sold and traded at the husband’s whim.
John Engel, a professor of Family Resources at the University of Hawaii, argues that in order to redistribute wealth and achieve a classless society, the People’s Republic of China established the Marriage Law of 1950. The law "was in-tended to cause ... fundamental changes ... aimed at family revolution by destroying all former patterns . .. and building up new relation-ships on the basis of new law and new ethics."  Xiaorong Li, a researcher at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland, asserts that the Marriage Law of 1950 not only banned the most extreme forms of female subordination and oppression, but also gave women the right to make their own marital decisions. The Marriage Law specifically prohibited concubinage and marriages when one party was sexually powerless, suffered from a venereal disease, leprosy, or a mental disorder. Thirty years after the implementation of the 1950 Marriage Law, China still faced serious issues, particularly in regards to population growth.
In a continuing effort to control marriage and family life, a marriage law was passed in 1980 and enacted in 1981. The Marriage Law banned arranged and forced marriages and shifted focus away from the dominance of men and onto the interests of the children and women. Article 2 of the 1980 Marriage law directly states, “the lawful rights and interests of women, children and the aged are protected. Family planning is practiced”. Adults, both men and women, gained the right to lawful divorce. In a vigilant effort to fight the tenacity of tradition, Article 3 of the 1980 marriage law continued the ban of concubinage, polygamy, and bigamy. The Marriage Law of 1980, Article 3, forbid mercenary marriages in which a bride price or dowry is paid. Although the law also generally prohibited the exaction of money or gifts in connection with any marriage arrangements, bride price and dowries were still practiced customs. According to Li, the traditional business of selling women in exchange for marriage returned after the law gave women to right to select their husbands. In 1990, 18,692 cases were investigated by Chinese authorities  Bride price payments are still common in rural areas, whereas dowries have not only have become smaller but less common. Similarly in urban areas, the dowry custom has nearly disappeared; however, the bride price custom has transformed into providing gifts for the bride or her family. Article 4 of the marriage law banned the usage of compulsion or the interference of third parties, stating, “marriage must be based upon the complete willingness of the two parties,”  As Engel argues, the law also encouraged sexual equality by making daughters just as valuable as sons, particularly in regards to potential for old age insurance. Article 8 of the 1980 Marriage Law states, “after a marriage has been registered, the woman may become a member of the man's family, or the man may become a member of the woman's family, according to the agreed wishes of the two parties.” 
The phenomenon of de facto polygamy, or so-called "second wives" (二奶 èrnǎi in Chinese), has reemerged in recent years. There are many villages in southern part of China where predominantly such women live.  This situation has created many social and legal issues
Policies on divorce
The Marriage Law of 1950 empowered women to initiate divorce proceedings. According to Elaine Jeffreys, an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Associate Professor in China studies, divorce requests were only granted if they were justified by politically proper reasons. These requests were mediated by party-affiliated organizations, rather than discredited legal systems. Ralph Haughwout Folsom, a professor of Chinese law, international trade, and international business transactions at the University of San Diego, and, John H. Minan, a trial attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and a law professor at the University of San Diego, argue that the Marriage Law of 1950 allowed for much flexibility in the refusal of divorce when only one party sought it. During the market-based economic reforms, China re-instituted a formal legal system and implemented provisions for divorce on a more individualized basis.
Jeffreys asserts that the Marriage Law of 1980 provided for divorce on the basis that emotions or mutual affections were broken. As a result of the more liberal grounds for divorce, the divorce rates soared  As women began divorcing their husbands, tensions increased and much resistance was met from rural males. Although divorce was now legally recognized, thousands of women lost their lives for attempting to divorce their husbands and some committed suicide when the right to divorce was withheld. Divorce, once seen as a rare act during the Mao era(1949–1976), has become more common with rates continuing to increase today. Along with this increase in divorce, it became evident that divorced women were often given an unfair share or housing and property.
The amended Marriage Law of 2001, which according to Jeffreys was designed to protect women’s rights, provided a solution to this problem by reverting back to a “moralistic fault-based system with a renewed focus on collectivist mechanisms to protect marriage and family.”  Although all property acquired during a marriage was seen as jointly-held, it was not until the implementation of Article 46 of the 2001 Marriage Law that the concealment of joint property was punishable. This was enacted to ensure a fair division during a divorce. The article also granted the right for a party to request compensation from a spouse who committed illegal cohabitation, bigamy, and family violence or desertion. The Chinese Marriage Law was amended in 2001 to offer mediation services and compensation to those who subjected to domestic violence. Domestic violence was finally criminalized with the 2005 amendment of the Law of Protection of Rights and Interests of Women.
The lack of public awareness of the 2005 amendment has allowed spousal abuse to persist. There was a significant increase in the prevalence of domestic violence in the People's Republic of China involving Chinese women committing violence against Chinese men. In 2003, 10 percent of violence in families involved male victims. The wives beat their husbands, and some cut off their penises. In Wuxi in Jiangsu province a man had his penis cut off by his wife. An article titled "Status Quo of Female Criminals in Nanjing" was translated on the All-China Women’s Federation's website on July 21, 2008, concerning the rise in young female criminals over the previous three years, numbering 2,140 and mostly Aged 35 or younger. Under "Crime Caused by Impulsion", it stated that several incidents in Nanjing in China occurred where Chinese men had their penis severed by their wives. An explanation given by a procurator said, "Their reasons are simple. The wife could not bear the fact that her husband is gambling or cheating on her. It is a crime of impulsion in an emotional crisis." The majority of the women criminals in Nanjing were given lenient jail time or not punished at all.
The gender gap in current enrollment widens with age because males are more likely to be enrolled than females at every age group in the People's Republic of China. 1961 marked the sudden decrease in female enrollment in primary and secondary school. Female primary school enrollment suffered more than that of males during the Great Chinese Famine (1958–1961). Although the gender gap for secondary and primary education has narrowed over time, the gender gap at the highest education level remains much larger. The One Percent Population Survey in 1987 found that in rural areas 48 percent of males aged 45 and above were illiterate while 6 percent of males 15–19 years old were illiterate. Although the percentage of illiterate women decreased significantly 88 percent to 15 percent, it is still significantly higher than the percentage of illiterate men for the same age groupings.
Education is instrumental for the empowerment of women and children. Education, which is typically granted to adolescent boys instead of young girls, contributes to women’s overall subordinate position. In order for gender equality in this realm of life to be achieved, a strategy that enhances the educational involvement, preservation, and accomplishment of adolescent females and women is fundamental.
In traditional Chinese culture, which was based on Confucius ideologies in a patriarchal society, women did not possess priority in healthcare. Males were viewed as superior, and as a result, health care was tailored to focus on them. Chinese health care has since undergone much reform and has tried to provide Chinese women equal health care as men. As the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) embarked the People’s Republic of China began to shift their focus onto the enforcement of health care for women. This change was apparent when the women in the Chinese workforce were granted health care. Health care policy required all women workers to receive urinalysis and vaginal examinations yearly. The People's Republic of China has enacted various laws to protect the health care rights of women, including the Maternal and Child Care law. This law and numerous others focus on protecting the rights of all women in the People's Republic of China.
Gender discrimination has contributed to the millions of missing women of China.Amartya Sen, the Noble Prize-winning economist, asserts that, over 100 million women are missing globally, with 50 million women missing from China alone. According to Sen, the current deficit in the number of women in Asia is due to many factors including, sex-selective abortion, the One-child policy, female infanticide, abortion of female fetus, and inadequate nutrition for girls. This trend of missing women contradicts biological research, which suggests that men are more susceptible to certain illnesses than women, resulting in lower male survival rates.
In 1956, the Chinese government publicly announced its goal to control the exponentially increasing population size. The government planned to use education and publicity as their main modes of increasing awareness.Zhou Enlai launched the first program for smaller families under the guidance of Madame Li Teh-chuan, the Minister of Health at the time. During this time, family planning and contraceptive usage were highly publicized and encouraged. The One-child policy, initiated in 1978 and first applied in 1979, mandated that each married couple may bear only one child, except in the case of special circumstances. These conditions included, "the birth of a first child who has developed a non-hereditary disability that will make it difficult to perform productive labour later in life, the fact that both husband and wife are themselves single children, a misdiagnosis of barrenness in the wife combined with a passage of more than five years after the adoption of a child, a remarrying husband and wife who have between them only one child." 
Mainland China has a highly masculine sex ratio. The sex ratio at birth (between male and female births) in mainland China reached 117:100 in the year 2000, substantially more masculine than the natural baseline, which ranges between 103:100 and 107:100. It had risen from 108:100 in 1981—at the boundary of the natural baseline—to 111:100 in 1990. According to a report by the State Population and Family Planning Commission, there will be 30 million more men than women in 2020, potentially leading to social instability. The correlation between the increase of masculine sex ratio disparity on birth and the deployment of one child policy would appear to have been caused by the one-child policy.
However, other Asian regions also have higher than average ratios, including Taiwan (110:100), which does not have a family planning policy. Many studies have explored the reason for the gender-based birthrate disparity in China as well as other countries. A study in 1990 attributed the high preponderance of reported male births in mainland China to four main causes: diseases which affect females more severely than males; the result of widespread under-reporting of female births; the illegal practice of sex-selective abortion made possible by the widespread availability of ultrasound; and finally, acts of child abandonment and infanticide.
Iron Fist Campaign
According to reports by the Amnesty International, family planning officials in Puning City, Guangdong Province launched the Iron Fist Campaign in April 2010. This campaign targeted individuals for sterilization in an attempt to control population growth. 9,559 individuals in Puning City were targeted for sterilization, some against their will. The targeted individuals were asked to go to governmental clinics where they would be sterilized. If they refused the procedure, then they put their families at risk for detainment. Although the Iron Fist Campaign, which lasted for 20 days, targeted 9,559 individuals, approximately 50 percent consented and 1,377 relatives of targeted couples were detained. Family planning officials defended the Iron Fist Campaign, asserting that the large population of migrant workers in Puning misunderstood the One-child policy and therefore had not complied with family planning regulations. In an attempt to standardize family planning policies across all of China, the Population and Family Planning Law of 2002 was implemented. According to the Amnesty International, the law protects individual rights and bans the usage of coercion or detainment.
If we use female labor force participation as the indicator to measure gender equality, China would be one of the most egalitarian countries in the world: female labor force participation in China increased dramatically after the founding of the People's Republic and almost reached the universal level.  According to a study by Bauer et al, of women who married between 1950 and 1965, 70 percent had jobs, and women who married between 1966 and 1976, 92 percent had jobs (Bauer et al. 1992). Even though women in China are actively contributing to the paid labor force at an extent that exceeds numerous other countries, equality in the workforce has yet to be reached. In 1982, Chinese working women represented 43 percent of the total population, a larger proportion than either working American women (35.3 percent) or working Japanese women (36 percent). As a result of the increased participation in the labor force, women's contribution to family income increased from 20 percent in the 1950s to 40 percent in the 1990s.
In traditional China, land was passed down from father to son and in the case of no son, the land was then given to a close male relative. Although in the past women in China were not granted ownership of land, today in rural areas of the People’s Republic of China, women possess pivotal roles in farming, which allows them control over the area’s central sources of production. Population greatly affects the mode of farming that is utilized, which determines the duties women have in farming. The practice of "clearing a patch of vegetation by the slash-and-burn method, growing assorted varieties of crops in the cleared land for one or two seasons and then moving to a new plot of land on a rotational basis" is known as Shifting cultivation. According to Thomas Rawski, a professor of Economics and History at the University of Pittsburgh, this method of agriculture is utilized in less populated areas and results in women performing more of the agricultural duties, whereas in more populated areas complicated plough cultivation is used. Plough cultivation prepares the land for farming by loosening the soil, making it easier for seeds to be sown. Men typically perform plough cultivation but during periods of high demand women pitch in with agricultural duties of planting, harvesting and transporting. Women also have key roles in tea cultivation and double cropping rice. Agricultural income is supplemented by women’s work in animal rearing, spinning, basket construction, weaving, and the production of other various crafts.
Urban and migrant work
In the private sector, Chinese law mandates the coverage of maternity leave and costs of childbirth. These maternity laws have led to employers’ reluctance to hire women.
However, not only do China's enterprises have the largest proportion of employment in industries, this is also the case for the whole non-agricultural employment in China. The 1991 survey, for example, shows that a little more than one third of male and female employees in China in 1991 were in the area of industrial production. Furthermore, the proportion of female employees in the following areas to the total female employees surpasses the proportion of male employees to the total male employees: (1) professional and technical occupations, (2) commerce and service occupations, and (3) industrial production. 
The People's Republic of China’s dependence on low-wage manufacturing to produce goods for the international market is due to changes in China’s economic policies. These economic policies have also encouraged the export industries. Urban industrial areas are staffed with young migrant women workers who leave their rural homes. Since males are more likely than females to attend college, rural females often migrate to urban employment in hopes of supplementing their families’ incomes. Factories in urban areas manufactured toys, clothing, electronics, and footwear primarily for exportation into the international world market.
In 1984 the reform of the Regulations of Permanent Residence Registration marked an increase in the migration of rural Chinese workers. As the restrictions on residence became more lenient, less penalizing, and permitted people to travel to find employment, more women engaged in migrant labor. In the cities, women could find low paying work as factory workers. These increased employment opportunities drew women out of rural areas in hopes of escaping poverty. Although this reformed system enabled the migration of rural residents, it prohibited them from accepting any benefits in the cities or changing their permanent residence, which led to a majority of migrant workers not receiving any forms of medical care, education, or housing. Currently 90 percent of migrant workers violate the Chinese labor law by working without contracts.
Women migrant workers outnumber males 2:1. In the Nanshan district of Shenzhen, 80 percent of the migrant workers were women. A preference for younger women over older women, has led to a predominantly young population of migrant workers. Married women have more restrictions on mobility due to duties to the family, whereas younger women are more likely to not be married. Also, younger rural women are less likely to become pregnant, possess nimble fingers, more able to work longer hours, and are less knowledgeable about their statutory rights. For the women who are able to gain employment, they then face the possibility of being forced to sign a contract prohibiting them from getting pregnant or married during their period of employment.
Women in politics
Women in China have low participation rates as political leaders. Women’s disadvantage is most evident in their severe underrepresentation in the more powerful, political, positions. At the top level of decision making, no woman has ever been among the nine members of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party’s Politburo. Just 3 of 27 government ministers are women, and importantly, since 1997, China has fallen to 53rd place from 16th in the world in terms of female representation at its parliament, the National People’s Congress, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The trend will likely continue due to a low proportion of women heads in villagers’ committees.
Crimes against women
Footbinding was conceptualized as early as the 6th century, but did not become popular until the 13th century. The process of bending a woman’s feet, breaking the arches, and wrapping the toes against the feet is the ancient tradition of footbinding, which has since been outlawed. Footbinding was performed to create smaller looking feet with intense arches. Society viewed these smaller feet as attractive. Special shoes were created to highlight the beauty of the bound foot size. The practice soon became a cultural norm and a requirement for marriage as mothers bound the feet of their daughters. Over time, various rituals developed around the practice of binding feet and the exchange of shoes between relatives and friends. According to Dorothy Ko, an early modern China historian and professor of History and Women’s Studies at the Barnard College of Columbia University, the rituals became a centerpiece of female identity and celebrated the skills of women. Although the small feet were seen as beautiful, the process of footbinding was painful and left many women immobile, confining them to their homes. This loss of mobility severely inhibited women's ability to perform housework, which was essential for women of the lower class. Bound feet became the mark of women in high class because few lower class women had the opportunity to bind their feet. It was not until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that class barriers in footbinding were reduced. During this time a growing number of peasant daughters began to emulate the elite upper class by binding their feet.
According to Ko, the demise of footbinding occurred after three successive regimes in China issued edicts prohibiting the practice of footbinding. The Manchurian leaders of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) repeatedly banned foot-binding under pain of severe punishment. The practice remained prevalent, however, and the official campaigns against it may have instead contributed to the popularity of foot-binding. As technology advanced in the modern age, multiple exposures of footbinding, particularly in photographic and radiographic lenses, destroyed the mystique of bound feet. Ko argues that the “demise of footbinding coincided with the decline of the written word as a instrument of veracity.”  According to Yuhui Li, a graduate of Columbia University and post-doctorate from the University of Chicago, the practice of footbinding did not end until the early 20th century. In the late 19th century a number of Chinese intellectuals introduced Western ideologies that “advocated equality between women and men, free love and marriage, educational opportunities for women, labor force participation of women, in a word, women's emancipation.” Following the fall of the Qing dynasty and the end of imperial rule, the Republican government outlawed foot-binding in 1912 and popular attitudes toward the practice began to shift decisively by the 1920s. In 1949 the practice of footbinding was successfully banned and has remained banned this day. Today bound feet act as a reminder of the past “oppression of women, insularity, despotism, and disregard for human rights.”
Young women and girls are kidnapped from their homes and sold to gangs who traffick women, often displacing the women by great distances. In order to ensure that the women do not run away, the men who purchase them do not allow the women to leave the house. Oftentimes the documentation and papers are taken from the trafficked women. Many women become pregnant and have children, and are burdened to provide for their family. In the 1950s, Mao Zedong, the first Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, launched a campaign to eradicate prostitution throughout China. The campaign made the act of trafficking women severely punishable by law. A major component of the campaign was the rehabilitation program in which prostitutes and trafficked women were provided "medical treatment, thought reform, job training, and family reintegration." Since the economic reform in 1979, sex trafficking and other social vices have revived.
Shortly after taking power in 1949, the Communist Party of China embarked upon a series of campaigns that purportedly eradicated prostitution from mainland China by the early 1960s. However, since the loosening of government controls over society in the early 1980s, prostitution in mainland China not only has become more visible, but also can now be found throughout both urban and rural areas. In spite of government efforts, prostitution has now developed to the extent that it comprises an industry, one that involves a great number of people and produces a considerable economic output. Prostitution has also become associated with a number of problems, including organized crime, government corruption and sexually transmitted diseases.
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