- The Guardian
- Issue #2052
This is an interview with a Chinese woman and comrade on the struggle and achievement in the process of women’s liberation in China.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing women in China?
Women are still responsible for most domestic work and the labour of housewives is not recognised. The awareness of harmful impacts from sexual harassment and abuse are currently not widely recognised either. Moreover, the ageing problem in China has led to pressure on some young women to return to traditional roles and give birth to and take care of children. Frustratingly, back in the 1990s the gap between female and male labour participation rates was 9 per cent. In 2020, that gap extended to 15 per cent. Therefore, the proportion of women participating in labour production decreased from 48.5 per cent to 42.5 per cent.
What work is being done to solve these challenges?
Submissions and inquiries were invited on a possible law on protection of women’s rights and interests last year, but it was not widely promoted, and most women were not aware of it. The China Social Welfare Foundation has been conducting fundraising activities providing support for vulnerable women and children.
What have women in China gained under socialism?
Looking back on modern history, women have improved their social status remarkably since the foundation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). We can divide those achievements into five major areas. Enacting the marriage law defends the freedom of marriage and divorce for Chinese women. It abandoned the old traditions of polygamy, child brides, mercenary marriage, and the infamous waiting brides (for a groom who hasn’t been born). Secondly, encouraging women’s involvement in production won them economic independence. Following land reform, women in rural regions obtained their proportion of land and actively took part in agricultural production. Women in minority ethnic groups managed to improve their social status by becoming involved in farming activities as well. Women in the city regions were also encouraged to join factory work and rapidly became an important force in various industries. Women were no longer silent in the political field. They were involved in multiple political activities such as War to Aid Korea rallies and reinforcement activities. There are now more women representatives in political leadership. Social and formal school education improved the standing and self-esteem of women. Before the foundation of the PRC, 90 per cent of women were illiterate. The literacy campaign educated women of all ages and had great success. Moreover, the work of maternal and child health care ensured the physical and mental health of women. New laws protected women from the suffering of foot binding and unsafe childbirth activities. Women enjoy the free rights of abortion.
Are young women in China engaging in women’s issues?
Most young women in China that I have come across are quite actively engaging in online discussion about women’s issues. Women are constantly expressing opinions on certain social issues. However, we lack a representative feminist voice on those issues so limited progress has been made. The #metoo campaign was once heated amongst young, middle class Chinese women, but it didn’t spread to the broader population. Feminism is also stigmatised in some topics, being seen as “extreme.”