A trailblazing gathering in the French Senate heard Chinese women speaking on women's rights.
For the first time, members from China's National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and French women politicians held a dialogue on women's rights and political participation.
Part of the Chinese Culture Women's Week, the exchange between politicians from the two countries attracted a local audience of around 200.
Gu Xiulian, vice chairwoman of the National Committee of the People's Congress of China, said the economic, political and social environment must be improved to help realize gender equality and the advancement of women's status.
She stressed the importance of peace and development as a precondition under which women could participate fully in social advancement.
In her opening remarks, Nicole Ameline, French minister of social affairs, labor and solidarity, said women's civil rights should be protected in their totality. She said everyone should contribute to building a new culture that helps achieve gender equality.
"We must actively promote the new culture of gender equality. It should not stop at a policy level, but become a social reality," she said.
Speakers from both sides stressed the importance of a legal framework as well as a working mechanism to guarantee women's political, economic and social rights, and the participation of women in managing state affairs as well.
Fang Xin, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, touched on the legal implications of gender equality.
A legal specialist, she said China had by July 2002 stipulated 11 laws that relate to women and women's rights protection and amended another seven relevant laws.
Over the years, she has maintained close contact with women's NGOs as these organizations have suggested several areas that need legal stipulations.
Related laws should cover couples' property, suggested the All-China Women's Federation. Fang and her colleagues took such suggestions to the National People's Congress.
As a consequence, particular regulations on the matter were written into the new marriage law.
Xavier Froment, acting chief of the Women's Rights and Equality Service under the French Ministry of Social Affairs, Labor and Solidarity, said that with laws in place, commitment from all sides is essential.
"We must put our commitment into action, beginning now with ourselves."
(China Daily March 20, 2004)