• By The Financial District

China's Planned Protections For Women's Rights Not Enough

The proposed revisions to a women’s rights law would be the first major change in nearly 20 years. But many women are skeptical that real progress will follow.

Photo Insert: Women have also been increasingly pushed out of the workplace and into traditional gender roles since China’s leader, Xi Jinping, assumed power.

The announcement was presented — in official news reports, on social media — as a major victory for Chinese women. The government was set to overhaul its law governing women’s rights for the first time in decades, to refine the definition of sexual harassment, affirm prohibitions on workplace discrimination and ban forms of emotional abuse, Vivian Wang reported for the New York Times.

For many women in China, the response was: Hm, really? Zhou Xiaoxuan in Beijing. Ms. Zhou, a prominent voice in China’s #MeToo movement, doubts the draft laws will change much.

“This is probably still a very long, hard road,” she said. The proposed revisions are the latest in a series of conflicting messages by the Chinese government about the country’s growing feminist movement.

On paper, the changes, which China’s legislature reviewed for the first time last month, would seem to be a triumph for activists who have long worked to push gender equality into the Chinese mainstream.

All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

The Women’s Rights and Interests Protection Law has been substantially revised only once, in 2005, since it was enacted nearly three decades ago. The government has also recently emphasized its dedication to women’s employment rights, especially as it urges women to have more children amid a looming demographic crisis.

The official newspaper of China’s Supreme Court explicitly tied the new three-child policy to the revision, which would codify prohibitions on employers asking women about their marital status or plans to have children.

Government & politics: Politicians, government officials and delegates standing in front of their country flags in a political event in the financial district.

At the same time, the authorities, ever leery of grass-roots organizing, have detained outspoken feminist activists and sought to control the country’s fledgling #MeToo movement. Sexual harassment lawsuits — already rare — have been dismissed. Women have been fired or fined for lodging accusations.

When Peng Shuai, a star tennis player, recently said on social media that a top Chinese leader had pressured her into sex, she was censored within minutes, and many worry that she is under surveillance. Women have also been increasingly pushed out of the workplace and into traditional gender roles since China’s leader, Xi Jinping, assumed power.

Health & lifestyle: Woman running and exercising over a bridge near the financial district.

Some fear that the campaign to encourage childbirth could turn coercive. Alibaba, the e-commerce giant, in December, dismissed an employee who accused her boss of rape. The case highlighted the hurdles Chinese women face when they experience sexual harassment or assault.

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