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2022-10-31 11:31:36

China’s top legislature passed the women’s protection law Sunday after two rounds of revisions, adding new provisions to safeguard women’s rights and interests from property and maternal leave to sexual harassment and trafficking.

The draft for the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests was first made public for feedback in December 2021 and received more than 700,000 comments, making it the largest number of comments for such a document in recent years, domestic media reported. Prior to the recent amendment, the law was first revised in 2005 after being enacted in 1992.

“Women’s rights are basic human rights,” Guo Linmao, director of the social law department of the legislative affairs commission of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, told state-run Xinhua News Agency. “The protection of their rights is an important part of upholding national human rights.”

The amendments passed Sunday will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Here are some of the highlights.

Sexual harassment

The law calls for a more comprehensive system to protect women from sexual harassment, further clarifying the obligations of schools and companies to guarantee their safety. It also encourages them to develop a feasible reporting and prevention mechanism, including adding sex education to the school curriculum.

The amendments specifically identify major patterns of sexual harassment to better pin down crimes and gather evidence. Insufficient evidence has long proved to be one of the main factors stopping victims of sexual harassment and abuse from making police complaints and even courts from making verdicts.

In August, an appeal by Zhou Xiaoxuan against a prominent television host was once again rejected by a court, citing a “lack of evidence.”

The new law also places an emphasis on the mental health of victims, with various government entities required to fully protect the privacy of individuals.

Maternity rights

The newly revised law stipulates a sound maternity leave system for employees, clarifying the obligations of employers to female workers.

In addition, the revised law bans pregnancy tests during recruitment and prohibits employers from using marriage, pregnancy, and childbirth against promoting and evaluating female employees. A 2021 survey by recruitment platform Liepin said about half of an undisclosed number of female interviewers said they had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, leading to fewer promotions and job opportunities compared with men.

The new law also specifies a ban on fetus sex determination for nonmedical reasons. It also guarantees to protect women’s wishes during fertility treatment.

Abduction and trafficking

The amended law bans the abduction and trade of women and prohibits obstructing the rescue of those who have been abducted. It also makes it illegal to discriminate against rescued women.

The law has also introduced a compulsory reporting system, where local departments, including public security, civil affairs, women’s federations, human resources, and health committees are required to report kidnapping cases, though it didn’t mention specific details. They’re also required to assist in rescuing and providing shelter for those who were rescued.

In April, when the women’s protection law opened for public comment for the second time, many called for anti-abduction laws following a shocking video showing a chained woman earlier this year.

Property rights

The revised law grants women with equal property rights as men, recognizing the former’s membership in rural groups that allow them to collectively own land. Previously, women had to rely on familial units when accessing land membership, which led to the violation of their rights after marriage.

The provision addresses the long discussion over women who married outside their native towns and were deprived of the right to be allocated farmland in rural areas.

The revised law specifies that women’s marital status, including the traditional saying of “no men in the family,” shouldn’t be a factor infringing their interests in the collective economic organizations.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image and icons: VCG)