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Expert hails improved situation for China's women
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17:19, April 22, 2008

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A Chinese human rights expert said on Tuesday that the government had continuously and comprehensively pushed forward women's development to ensure that they enjoyed equal rights with men.

Zou Xiaoqiao, director of the international affairs department under the All-China Women's Federation, made the remarks at the Beijing Forum on Human Rights, which opened here on Monday.

"To guarantee women's human rights, we must ensure their capacity to be self-supporting and make decisions, and, at the same time, provide them with rights of political, economic, cultural, and social development," she said. "Only in this way can women's rights and demands be integrated into mainstream social development."

China was among the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, drafted by the United Nations in 1979, according to Zou.

She said since then, women's equality with men in politics, economic affairs, culture, and social and family life have been further realized:

-- Women have more say in decision-making in politics. Women cadres now account for more than 38 percent of the total in government departments and the organs of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

-- Women's employment structure has been optimized. In 2005, urban and rural women accounted for 45 percent of the total employed and the number of women in urban work units in the key fields of computers, communications, finance, education, health and social security stood at 16.45 million.

-- The government has increased funding for gender equality in education. In 2006, the proportion of female postgraduate and doctoral students was 46.4 percent and 33.9 percent of the total, respectively, 12.3 percentage points and 12.4 percentage points more than in 2000.

-- Women's health conditions and living standards had greatly improved. At the end of 2005, there were 3,021 health care institutes for women and children throughout China. Also, the maternal mortality rate had declined steadily, from 61.9 per 100,000 in 1995 to the current 47.7 per 100,000. The average life expectancy for women is 74.1 years.

Zou, however, acknowledged that women still faced serious challenges, such as job discrimination, low educational levels, especially in rural areas, and domestic violence.

"It takes a fairly long time to go from equality in law to equality in reality," she said.


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