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2022-10-28 09:21:42

A revised draft of China’s women’s protection law intends to strengthen the supervision of media coverage on gender issues, without elaborating on the specific mechanisms, as several high-profile cases have triggered concerns over the privacy and reputational rights of women.

Media reports involving women’s issues should be “objective” and “moderate” and should not infringe on their personal rights and interests by “exaggerating facts and overstating them,” domestic media reported, citing the third revised draft of the Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests. The latest draft, yet to be released to the public, was submitted to China’s top legislature for review on Thursday during its ongoing session which is set to conclude Sunday.

Lü Xiaoquan, a women’s rights lawyer at Beijing-based Qianqian Law Firm, told Sixth Tone that while the new stipulation is well-intended, the lack of standards on defining “moderate” media reports could deter journalists from reporting, fearing potential repercussions. Instead, he said the law could have cited basic media ethics guidelines for conducting fair and accurate reporting.

“It is difficult to measure a subjective term like ‘moderate,’” he said. “In practice, it should be clarified who will make the judgment and what the evaluation criteria are.”

China first enacted the women’s protection law in 1992 and it was revised in 2005. The latest revision to the law, which started in December 2021, has attracted widespread attention and received hundreds of thousands of suggestions from the public, with many men claiming the provisions could be discriminatory against them.

The latest draft — now in its third revision — stipulates that local officials who fail to report women trafficking cases or rescue kidnapped women will be punished. The second version released in April only mentioned a mandatory reporting system to prevent the trafficking of women.

Over the years, gender issues — from gender-based violence, sexual harassment, and abuse to the trafficking of women — have often triggered heated discussions on Chinese social media platforms, prompting the authorities to act swiftly. Trafficking of women became a widely discussed issue after reports of a chained woman in the eastern Jiangsu province sparked national outrage and an investigation by the provincial authorities.

The latest draft of the law also granted human resources and social security bureaus the authority to work with labor unions and women’s federations to require employers to rectify misbehavior in disputes relating to women’s labor rights and interests. It further included provisions for strengthening the rights and interests of disadvantaged women, especially low-income, older, or disabled women, by providing financial or employment-related support.

“Protecting the marginalized and vulnerable women groups is necessary and reflects the point of the legislation,” Lü said. “The question is how to put it into practice. There must be detailed supporting mechanisms and rules for implementation.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: SvetaZi/Getty Creative/VCG)