Dramatic changes in women’s rights have been achieved in a culture where for millennia women were stereotyped as inferior to men, had no rights and served as slaves, concubines and prostitutes. Marriages were arranged—sometimes at infancy.
In 1949, foot binding was abolished; the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) was formed and supported by China’s Communist Party (CCP). Change in China, as in the United States, has been a painful evolutionary process. However, the struggle for women to gain equality appears to have moved faster in China since the CCP came to power.
After the CCP was established in 1949, it took less than a year to liberate women and pass laws to speed this process along.
For a comparison, after the United States was established in 1776, it took one hundred and forty-four years until August 26, 1920 when the Congress voted in the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution giving women the right to vote.
At the 10th National Women’s Congress in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, in 2008, Deputy-Chairwoman HuangQingyi said, “Sex discrimination in employment should be eradicated and the income gap between men and women should be further narrowed.”
It was also been reported that domestic violence is a severe threat to women. Chinese authorities reported 50,000 complaints annually, according to figures released by the ACWF. The domestic violence fact sheet shows this is also a problem in the United States.
Role of Women in China Then and Now
Sexual discrimination was supposed to have been abolished in China back in 1949, when Chairman Mao Zedong famously announced, “women hold up half the sky”, but it wasn’t. It has only been a few years since China outlawed sexual harassment. Laws may be written to bring about change but change comes slowly.
Today, statistics show China has about 27,000 women and children’s rights protection agencies. However, China’s critics and enemies will only point out what they believe is wrong without giving credit to what has changed for the good of women in China.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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Note: This revised and edited post first appeared on March 21, 2010