As with a growing number of sexual harassment and domestic violence cases and 2021 full of setbacks for its crucial #MeToo movement, China is set to upgrade and strengthen its nearly three-decade-old law to safeguard women’s rights both at the workplace and at home.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) which is China’s top legislative body on Monday began to review a draft amendment to the ‘Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women’, Xinhua which is a state-run news agency reported.
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Unlike the nation’s current laws, the proposed legislation states down a specific definition for “discrimination against women” for the very first time. The revised draft provides stated descriptions of what would qualify as sexual harassment in the workplace which included inappropriate behaviour, sexually explicit images or offering benefits in exchange for sexual favours.
But the draft is not certainly limited to the workplace only. It even attempts to protect a woman’s rights within the traditional structure of the family, and even allows women to ask for compensation after divorce.
Under the proposal, employers are banned from mentioning gender preferences in job ads or asking female applicants about their marital and pregnancy status. Employers are even prohibited from firing or reducing a woman’s salary if she seeks to get married or have a baby.
While previous laws simply defined that sexual harassment against women was prohibited, the proposal lays down a clear meaning of what states as ‘sexual harassment’ which includes “subjecting women to verbal expressions with sexual connotations or any other inappropriate sexual behaviour without their consent”, Reuters reported.
Going to the domestic sphere, the new regulations also explain the duties of both the husband and the wife within the traditional family structure. In case of divorce, women have the sole right to seek compensation if they think they have been doing more duties at home, the draft states.
This came certainly after a court in Beijing granted a housewife a 50,000 yuan payout from her husband for 5 years of unpaid labour. The landmark case broke a nationwide debate on the value of domestic work earlier in 2021.
In recent years, China has been widely criticised for doing not much to protect sexual harassment survivors and attempting to suppress the #MeToo movement in its initial stages. The nation has seen a growing debate on crimes against women as many domestic violence and sexual harassment cases have been reported in the last few years.
China’s #MeToo movement started in 2018 when a former student of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics said that her professor was sexually harassing her. He was fired from the university, following which many other women were motivated to come forward with their complaints.
Very recently, Peng Shuai who is a pro Chinese tennis shocked by a storm on social media after she alleged that she was forced into a sexual relationship by Zhang Gaoli who is China’s former Vice-Premier, 75 years old, after his retirement from power in 2017. Soon after she shared her terrible allegation on China’s social media forum WeChat, she was missing. After her sudden disappearance made international furore, she came back in a few offline media videos. However, Zhang got away without any punishment.
But several women fear that China’s new three-child policy shall only worsen the problem, CNN mentioned.
Women without any children or with a single child are projected as a liability as they can potentially avail of maternity leave benefits, the report mentions.