VII. Women, Marriage and the Family

In the early 1950s, the Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China, the first law promulgated since the founding of New China in 1949, clearly stipulated women's equal status in marriage and the family. The revised Marriage Law, promulgated in 2001, reiterated the basic principle of equality between men and women, stressed the equal status of husband and wife and their equal rights and responsibilities in marriage and the family, and, in consideration of actual situation, added articles forbidding domestic violence and bigamy with the clear aim of protecting women's rights. Today, women have a lot more say in decision-making concerning their own marriage and play a bigger role in family decisions, and their personal and property rights are better protected.

Adhering to the basic national policy of family planning and advocating late marriage and late childbirth. Over the last decade, the rate of early marriage among women has dropped, the average age for first marriage has gone up, and the general childbirth rate was kept at a fairly low level - 1.8 per couple in 2004. In the course of promoting family planning, the state stresses gender consciousness in society while respecting women's rights concerning childbirth, integrating family planning with the promotion of gender equality. The Law on Population and Family Planning, implemented since 2002, further stipulates that husband and wife must both be responsible for family planning, thus providing favorable conditions for gender equality in family life.

Greatly developing social welfare undertakings, giving priority to community public services that directly concern family life with the aim of socializing housework, and enabling women to have more free time. In tandem with the rapid development of housework services, the rate of expenditure on such services is increasing. The prevalence of household appliances and the development of nurseries and kindergartens, as well as the increased percentage of housework shared by men have all lightened women's housework burden and further narrowed the gap in housework time between men and women.

Protecting girls' and baby girls' legal rights to subsistence and development and cutting down the disparity in number between baby boys and girls. The Law on Population and Family Planning forbids fetus gender identification by means of ultrasonic and other technical methods for non-medical purposes, and forbids termination of pregnancy out of consideration for a fetus' gender for non-medical purposes. In recent years, government departments concerned have initiated the drive to "Bringing a New Ethos of Marriage and Childbirth to Myriads of Households," to further stress equality between men and women and promote social esteem for both male and female babies. In 2003, the "Care-for-Girl Action" started, which put forward the ideas that "gender discrimination should be eradicated from the prenatal stage and gender equality should be stressed in early childhood." Through wide and intensive publicity, the action is aimed at establishing, step by step, an interest-oriented mechanism favorable for girls and their family development, changing the traditional preference for boys to girls, safeguarding girls' legitimate rights and interests, and striving to enhance their status in the family.

Paying due attention to protecting elderly women's legitimate rights and interests, and raising their status in marriage and the family. To provide legal and institutional guarantees for the protection of the rights and interests of elderly people of whom women form the majority, the state has formulated a series of laws and policies over the last decade, with the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Rights and Interests of the Aged as the core. The Chinese government is especially concerned about the special problems of elderly women, and provides guarantees for their basic subsistence and protection of their legitimate rights and interests. The state also encourages the development of undertakings and industries aimed at serving elderly people, and gradually achieving the goal of offering socialized services for the aged. It also pays attention to ensuring the physical and mental health of elderly women, and enriching their spiritual and cultural life.

Striving to create a household environment featuring respect for women and gender equality. In September 2001, the state promulgated the Implementation Outline for the Project for Enhancing the Moral Standards of Chinese Citizens, which sets forth the ideas of achieving equality between men and women in family life, respecting and protecting women's legitimate rights and interests, and opposing discrimination against and persecution of women. The outline also advocates making one's own decision in love and marriage, and promoting the new civilized ethos of "respect for the elderly and care for the young, equality between men and women, industrious and thrifty household management, and harmonious family life and neighborly unity." With great support from the government, a sound environment for gender equality in household affairs is taking shape.

Actively promoting international exchanges and cooperation in the aspect of families. The Chinese government has all along actively participated in UN resolutions, consultations and other activities concerning family issues. China joined the World Family Organization in 2001 and attended the United Nations Doha International Conference on the Family in 2004. China supports the Doha Declaration in its encouragement of equal partnership between husband and wife within a committed marital relationship, and condemns domestic violence. In the same year, China hosted the World Family Summit, and advocated that gender equality should begin in the family, to foster a harmonious partnership among family members.