VI. Protecting the Legitimate Rights and
Interests of Women and Children

To promote equality between men and women is a basic objective in China's social development. Since 1991, based on the legislative principle of equal rights for men and women and protection of women's special rights and interests, China has worked to reinforce the lawful protection of women's human rights. In 1992 China promulgated and put into effect the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests. It stipulates in concrete terms all aspects of women's rights and interests, including rights and interests in politics, culture and education, labor, property, person, marriage and family. China has now established a legal system with the Constitution as its basis and the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests as its main part; it includes some 10 legislations, more than 40 administrative laws and regulations and over 80 local laws and regulations guaranteeing women's rights and interests.

In August 1995 the Chinese government issued the Program for Chinese Women's Development (1995-2000), which makes clear that the main goal for Chinese women's development is to raise the quality of women in general and make sure that women enjoy all the rights they are entitled to by law. The program also lays down specific goals and related policies and measures.

Chinese women enjoy the same political rights as men. The extent of women's involvement in the management of state and social affairs has further increased in recent years. In 1993, 95 percent of women cast their votes during local elections for people's congresses. There are 626 women deputies to the Eighth National People's Congress, accounting for 21.03 percent of the total number of deputies. The ratio is high in the world. There are 19 women on the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, accounting for 12.3 percent of all Standing Committee members and a 2 percentage point rise from the last congress. The ratio of women deputies in local people's congresses is higher than the last congress. The number of women holding leading positions in government departments has also risen. The number of women employed by the government has risen from 10.04 million in 1991 to 12.371 million in 1994. The ratio of women employed by the government has risen from 31.2 percent to 32.5 percent. In 1994, among those occupying high government positions were one woman State Councillor of the State Council, 16 women ministers or vice-ministers, 18 women provincial vice-governors, more than 300 women mayors or vice-mayors and 21,012 women judges.

Chinese women's economic, social and cultural rights are being more effectively guaranteed. The number of women employed now accounts for 44 percent of the employed, higher than the world average of 34.5 percent. The number of women working in cities and towns has risen from 52.94 million in 1990 to 56.458 million in 1994. The ratio of women in the whole work force is 38 percent. About half the labor force in the countryside is made up by women. More and more women are taking more sophisticated jobs. According to statistics for 1993, 36.8 percent of all professional and technical personnel working in enterprises and institutions were women. About 35 percent, or 8.097 million, of China's scientists and technicians are women. This ratio is higher than that in many developed countries.

Chinese law stipulates that men and women doing the same job get the same pay, and working women receive special protection. Women receive special care during menstruation, pregnancy, maternity and breast-feeding. Working women who give birth are entitled to three months of maternity leave with pay. These laws have been strictly enforced for the past decades. In recent years women employees in some units have been given six months' paid maternity leave.

Women's right to education is further protected. The ratio of girls between seven and 11 attending school has risen from 80 percent in 1990 to 97.7 percent in 1994. The ratio of female students in middle school and in university rose from 42.2 and 33.7 percent to 44.3 and 34.5 percent respectively.

The state pays special attention to protecting women's rights in marriage and the family and guaranteeing according to law women's independence in marriage and equal rights between husband and wife, men and women in the family. Chinese women enjoy the same right of ownership of property and inheritance as men and equal rights in the management and decision-making of family affairs. According to a survey, in 58 percent of families in China, decisions concerning important family affairs are made by the husband and wife together. A wife abused by her husband or a daughter-in-law abused by her father- or mother-in-law is considered unacceptable offenses in society. The family violence common in some Western countries is relatively rare in China.

The state respects a woman's right to give birth and protects her health when giving birth. In China women have the right to family planning and the freedom to choose not to give birth. Relevant departments have the duty to provide couples at the child-bearing age with safe and effective contraceptives and techniques and ensure that women taking birthcontrol measures are safe and healthy. In recent years, as the economy has developed and society progressed, more and more women are making their own decisions about giving birth. Cases of women being discriminated against by their fathers- or mothers-in-law or estranged by their husbands because they are infertile or give birth to girls have declined steadily.

The family planning policy implemented by the state according to the Constitution represents the long-term interests of state and social development. It also meets the demands of women to raise the level of their health and family life. Women all over China have fully supported this policy. The birthcontrol rate of married women rose from 75 percent in 1990 to 83 percent in 1994, and in some areas it was above 90 percent. The birthrate dropped from 21.06 per 1,000 in 1990 to 17.7 per 1,000 in 1994. The natural population growth rate dropped from 14.39 per 1,000 to 11.21 per 1,000. Women's total birth-rate dropped from 2.31 to about 2.0. At the same time, the health level of women giving birth has risen considerably. Around 98 percent of urban women and 70 percent of rural women have prenatal examinations. The death rate of pregnant women or women giving birth dropped from 94.7 per 100,000 in 1989 to 67.3 per 100,000 in 1993.

China's family planning policy is a great contribution to the world's human rights. According to statistics issued by the UN's population foundation, the present world population is 5.7 billion. Without exercising control, it will reach 11.9 billion by the year 2050. The world will face the crisis of "population explosion." The family planning policy enabled China to postpone its "1.2 billion day" for nine years.

Children are the future of the country and society. In recent years, through legislative, judicial, administrative and other types of measures, the state has greatly improved children's conditions.

In September 1991 the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress passed the Law on the Protection of Minors of the People's Republic of China. It clearly stipulates that "the state ensures that personal, property and other legitimate rights of minors not be infringed." It also gives provisions on various principles guiding the protection of minors and the responsibilities of family, school, society and judicial institutions in this respect. As a result, the protection of children is now within the scope of law. In 1992 the State Council issued An Outline Program for Chinese Children's Development in the 1990s. It gives concrete stipulations on the main goals and measures for the development of Chinese children in this century.

To counter the criminal activities of kidnapping and selling women and children, which have recurred in some areas in recent years, judicial departments at various levels have dealt out severe punishment according to the Regulations on the Severe Punishment of Criminals Who Kidnap and Sell Women and Children passed in 1991 by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Many criminals were brought to justice. Cases of kidnapping and selling people have declined since 1991, down 35.2 percent in 1992, 9 percent in 1993 and 27.3 percent in 1994.

To ensure the health of children, China has taken great steps to develop health care for women and children and improve the health-care level of kindergartens and nurseries. There are now nearly 450,000 kindergartens and nurseries all over the country. In big and medium-sized cities the demand for kindergartens and nurseries is basically met. There are 3,164 health-care institutions for women and children throughout China. To control and prevent infectious diseases, China has an immunity program for all children. In 1994 the rate of children inoculated against pertussis, diphtheria and tentanus was 92.76 percent. The rate of children inoculated with BCG, measles and polio vaccine was 93.96, 89.37 and 93.74 percent respectively. The rate of inoculated children in China is close to the average level of developed countries. The Chinese government has promised to wipe out polio in China. Since 1991 the infant mortality rate and that of children under five years of age have declined at an annual rate of 4.6 percent and 4.9 percent.