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Women Seek Law to Protect Themselves
Chinese women are increasingly using the law to protect themselves, rather than just complaining about injustices.

Legal professionals and women experts claim improved economic status and better access to legal knowledge for women are the reasons behind the change.

Song Lijian, a consultant with Beijing based Maple Women's Psychological Counselling Centre, said: "Most women call now to ask for ways to better protect themselves instead of simply complaining about unfair treatment they have had to endure in the past. There has been an increased sense of resorting to laws to protect themselves."

Ma Yongjin, a judge with Chaoyang District People's Court in Beijing, said: "Widespread legal knowledge has given many women enough information to fight for their own rights. Many have a very clear idea of what they deserve."

Song added: "Many women now consider the problems in their marriage as private issues, and would rather go to court than expose their private lives in their working place. Women's improved economic status has made many change their view that marriage and family are all they have in their lives."

Special departments in China's enterprises and institutions used to take up the responsibility of mediating to help settle family disputes. The practice has been gradually cast away as increasingly more people start to treasure their private lives.

A recent survey conducted by Beijing-based China Mainland Marketing Research Company in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou indicated, while prenuptial property notarization is appealing to increasingly more people, women outnumber men in resorting to the practice to protect their own rights.

Among the 858 citizens who participated in the survey, nearly 60 percent of women respondents said they thought prenuptial property notarization was necessary, nearly 5 percentage points higher than male respondents who took the same stance.

"This is a sign of improved independence and self-protection among women," said Song.

Women's increased awareness of laws as a shield against rights violations has been coupled with the nation's legislative efforts to protect women's rights.

Apart from the law on the protection of women's rights, in April last year the amendments of the Marriage Law stipulates victims of family violence or divorce can receive compensation, which legal experts believe is aimed at the better protection of women and children.

Judges have also taken into consideration the rights of women in deciding on the verdicts, favouring female parties in dividing of property in divorce cases, and supporting female litigants for their requests.

(China Daily March 8, 2002)

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