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Is anyone really hearing the newly found voice of Chinese women?

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

For almost three decades now, Chinese women have been in a latent fight for their rights. The male-dominating Communist Party of China has been putting off their pleas for quite a while now. Lately, Beijing’s efforts to celebrate the Winter Olympics were ruined by a tennis star’s allegations that she was coerced into having a sexual relationship with a retired state leader. This stirred up a lot of tension and several more cases of women assault then started to come out. The entire scenario soon changed into a sort of late-blooming #MeToo movement.

While President Xi Jinping’s government said little about the emerging pressure on the political offices, it did push through an overhaul of an almost three-decade-old women’s rights law in October. The Women’s Rights and Interests Protection Law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, urges measures to eliminate discrimination against women, such as denying female employees promotions due to circumstances like marriage and pregnancy.

The natural duty of the government and the legislature is to listen to the people,” said Feng Yuan, co-founder of Beijing Equality, an advocacy group for women’s rights. “Updating the law is a response, but it’s not enough.” The demands of women have been building up for quite a long time now, especially considering the 'now non-prevalent policy' of restricting families to a single child as population control measures. However, as an impact of this people have been more focused on highly educating their only daughters. China ranks among the countries with the most balanced enrollment in tertiary education, according to the World Economic Forum. Studies also show a higher percentage of Chinese women in corporate leadership positions than the world average.

The prospects for a broader political response appear as dim as ever, given Xi’s signals in the latest party reshuffle. But the women of China aren’t ready to give up yet. Young, urban Chinese women are “not only actively participating in social debates online, but they’re also becoming more vocal in their daily life when they see things that are upsetting,” said Li Yan, who headed an international environmental group’s China office for three years. But Li worries the gathering demographic crisis could make disputes harder to resolve. “There’s still a divide in populations thinking about what it should be,” she said. “There’s a clear lack of reconciliation on what is the right way forward.”


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