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Female Legislators: Rights of Women Can't be Ignored
What do women want?

For female legislators who are in Beijing for the annual session, they want more high-level political posts, an extension of the female retirement age and a raise in monthly salaries.

And when it comes to how fair the playing field is for men and women, opinion was divided depending on their backgrounds.

Economically-independent women, especially from academic and business sectors, say they do not see it as a problem in China, while those from low-income and marginalized groups say they still suffer from extensive sexual discrimination in their jobs and in their salaries.

The needs of women also vary among female legislators.

Gong Shufen, a legislator from a small farming area in Northwest China's Gansu Province, is urging the National People's Congress to create jobs for farmers in rural areas in cities closer to home.

Gong's husband had to move thousands of miles away to Beijing, the only place he could find work.

Nearly 80 per cent of adult males in her town have left to work in big cities.

Every day, she toils in the potato field and looks after her child and in-laws. She only sees her husband once a year.

"It is a heavy burden for me to take care for the home by myself,'' said Gong, "I need my husband to come back and share our life.''

Gong said small towns should be built with jobs and enterprises to recruit the surplus in the rural workforce.

She said it is the best way to bring the husbands back to her rural community of 3,562-members, a poverty-stricken region with a per capita income of 1,450 yuan (US$175) a year.

For Zhai Wenying, an intellectual legislator from Southwest China's Sichuan Province, women's rights need more specific changes. She is finishing a motion revising an administrative regulation requiring professional women to retire at the age of 55, while men don't have to retire until 60.

Women shouldn't be treated so unfavourably, she said.

"The retirement age should be level. Women have more time to devote to their career,'' said Zhai.

Besides, the average life expectancy of women in China is longer than that of men, she said.

(China Daily March 10, 2002)

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