Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, and some persons convicted of rape were executed. The penalties for rape ranges from three years in prison to a death sentence. The law does not address spousal rape. Migrant female workers were particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. In September the government released a report stating that public security organs uncovered 25,852 cases of rape in 2013, the most recent year for which statistics were available, but otherwise did not make available official statistics on rape or sexual assault, leaving the scale of sexual violence difficult to determine. The government, however, acknowledged the need to include the reporting of rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other gender-related cases in annual judicial statistics.
Violence against women remained a significant problem. According to reports, at least one-quarter of families suffered from domestic violence, and more than 85 percent of the victims were women. In a 2013 UN report on domestic violence, 51.3 percent of male respondents admitted to having perpetrated physical or sexual partner violence. Another survey indicated that at least 40 percent of women, either married or in a relationship, had experienced physical or sexual abuse. Only 7 percent of women surveyed reported cases of domestic violence to the police, according to the 2014 All China Women’s Federation (ACWF) survey. A 2013 ACWF study noted that almost 30 percent of victims who did not report abuse believed that domestic violence should be kept a private matter. A broadly held societal belief was that spousal abuse was acceptable, according to a World Values Survey released in 2015. This led to underreporting, with only 50,000 cases of domestic violence registered each year, on average.
Domestic violence against women included verbal and psychological abuse, restrictions on personal freedom, economic control, physical violence, and rape. The government supported shelters for victims of domestic violence, and some courts provided protections to victims, including through restraining orders prohibiting a perpetrator of domestic violence from coming near a victim. Nonetheless, official assistance did not always reach victims, and public security forces often ignored domestic violence. Legal aid institutions worked to provide counseling and defense to victims of domestic violence. In 2014 more than 3,700 legal aid institutions were established, providing aid to 352,000 women. In spite of this, many legal aid institutions reported harassment from public security authorities. Organizations working to defend victims of domestic violence were often pressured to suspend public activities and cease all forms of policy advocacy, an area that was reserved only for government-sponsored organizations.
While domestic violence tended to be more prevalent in rural areas, it also occurred among the highly educated urban population. The ACWF reported that approximately one-quarter of the 400,000 divorces registered each year were the result of family violence.
Reports also indicated that many domestic violence shelters providing services to victims were primarily attached to homeless shelters, hindering their ability to treat victims. Many domestic violence shelters had inadequate facilities, required extensive documentation, or went unused. The government operated most shelters, some with NGO participation. In 2012 the government provided 680,000 office spaces in government buildings for women’s resource centers.
On December 27, the NPC passed the country’s first national law on domestic violence, the Family Violence Law, which provides stronger legal mechanisms to protect women from domestic abuse. The law defines domestic violence as physical and mental violence between family members. A provision was also added to include cohabitating couples. Some experts, however, complained that the law is too general and fails to include other types of violence, including sexual and economic violence, and does not protect same-sex couples. Experts also expressed concern that the general language of the law could inhibit effective implementation and enforcement of the law.
According to women’s rights activists, a reoccurring problem in the prosecution of domestic violence cases was a lack of evidence--including photographs, hospital records, police records, or children’s testimony--which hindered the prosecution of domestic violence cases. Witnesses seldom testified in court.
Courts’ recognition of domestic violence improved, making spousal abuse a mitigating factor in crimes committed in self-defense. In March the SPC issued guidelines for dealing with cases of domestic violence to improve the unified application of laws, according to the Information Office of the State Council. In April the Sichuan People’s Court suspended for two years the death sentence of a women who had murdered her husband, with the court acknowledging for the first time that she had been the victim of domestic violence.
Public support increased in the fight against domestic violence. A 2013 survey found that more than 85 percent of respondents believed further antidomestic violence legislation was needed. A high-profile 2013 case set a precedent when the court acknowledged domestic violence as grounds for divorce, granted a protection order, and ordered the former husband to pay compensation for the violence his former spouse had endured during their marriage.
Sexual Harassment: The law bans sexual harassment; offenders are subject to a penalty of up to 15 days in detention, according to the Beijing Public Security Bureau. A 2013 NGO survey of female manufacturing workers in Guangzhou indicated that as many as 70 percent of Guangzhou’s female workforce had been sexually harassed. Approximately one-half of respondents did not pursue legal or administrative actions, while 15 percent reported leaving the workplace to escape their harasser.
Sexual harassment was not limited to the workplace. According to a 2013 China Youth Daily survey, approximately 14 percent of women had been sexually harassed while riding the subway, and 82 percent of those polled believed the problem existed.
According to information on the ACWF website, the internet and hotlines made it easier for women who were sexually harassed to obtain useful information and legal service. A Beijing rights lawyer told the ACWF that approximately 100 to 200 million women in the country had suffered or were suffering sexual harassment in the workplace but that very few legal service centers provided counseling.
While the ACWF and universities worked to improve awareness on sexual harassment by offering seminars and classes, NGOs that sought to increase public awareness on sexual harassment came under increasing scrutiny. This scrutiny was best exemplified by the March arrest of the Beijing five feminists, who planned to mark International Women’s Day through a public outreach campaign against sexual harassment on public transportation. At least 10 Chinese campaigners for gender equality were detained by police in Beijing, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou before the event took place. Although they were released from detention in April, the charges against the five women--Li Tingting, Wu Rongrong, Zheng Churan, Wei Tingting, and Wang Man--remained in place at year’s end.
Reproductive Rights: The government restricted the rights of parents to choose the number of children they have. In 2013 the government revised the national population and family planning policy (the so-called one-child policy) to allow families to have two children when at least one parent was a single child (see further description below). In October the CCP proposed the limit be raised to two children per family. The two-child policy was scheduled to be officially implemented as of January 1, 2016.
For all children, parents were required to obtain an official birth approval form to register the child for the “hukou” residence permit (needed to enroll in school) or for other official documents. The hukou is an essential identity document for normal life in China. Most parents obtain the birth approval form before or during pregnancy, but it is possible to apply for and receive the form after the birth. For that reason, the presence or absence of an official birth approval does not affect health services during pregnancy, i.e., hospitals do not require the form before providing prenatal care. It is only when registering for the hukou that the birth permission is mandatory, and it is at that point that the birth-limitation policies take effect.
Intense pressure to meet birth-limitation targets set by government regulations resulted in instances of local family-planning officials using physical coercion to meet government goals. Such practices included the mandatory use of birth control and the forced abortion of unauthorized pregnancies. In the case of families that already had two children, one parent was often required to undergo sterilization.
The country’s birth-limitation policies retained harshly coercive elements in law and practice. The financial and administrative penalties for unauthorized births were strict. The law requires each parent of an unapproved child to pay a “social compensation fee” that could reach 10 times a person’s annual disposable income. To avoid these fines, some parents sought to hide an unapproved child with friends or relatives.
The National Health and Family Planning Commission announced it would continue to charge “social compensation fees” for family-planning policy violations. Social compensation fees were set and assessed at the local level. The law requires family-planning officials to obtain court approval before taking “forcible” action, such as detaining family members or confiscating and destroying property of families who refuse to pay social compensation fees. This requirement was not always followed.
Enforcement of the population control policy relied on education, propaganda, and economic incentives as well as on more coercive measures. Those who had an unapproved child or helped another to do so faced disciplinary measures, such as having to pay social compensation fees, job loss or demotion, loss of promotion opportunity, expulsion from the CCP (membership is an unofficial requirement for certain jobs), and other administrative punishments, including in some cases the destruction of private property. For example, in September a woman in Yunnan Province complained on social media that local officials threatened to terminate her husband from his job as a police officer if she refused to abort their second child, with whom she was eight months’ pregnant.
It continued to be illegal in almost all provinces for a single woman to have a child, with fines levied for violations. The law mandates that family-planning bureaus conduct pregnancy tests on married women and provide them with unspecified “follow-up” services. Some provinces fined women who did not undergo periodic state-mandated pregnancy tests.
Officials at all levels could receive rewards or penalties based on whether or not they met the population goals set by their administrative region. Promotions for local officials depended in part on meeting population targets. Linking job promotion with an official’s ability to meet or exceed population targets provided a powerful structural incentive for officials to employ coercive measures to meet population goals. An administrative reform process initiated pilot programs in some localities that removed this criterion for evaluating officials’ performance.
Although the family-planning law states that officials should not violate citizens’ “lawful rights” in the enforcement of family-planning policy, these rights, as well as penalties for violating them, were not clearly defined. By law citizens may sue officials who exceed their authority in implementing birth-planning policy, but few protections existed for whistleblowers against retaliation from local officials. The law provides significant and detailed sanctions for officials who helped persons evade the birth limitations.
The National Health Population and Family Planning Commission reported that 13 million women annually terminated unplanned pregnancies. An official news media outlet also reported at least an additional 10 million chemically induced abortions were performed in nongovernment facilities. Government statistics on the percentage of all abortions that were nonelective was not available.
The country’s fertility rate was far below replacement level, in part due to more than three decades of coercive population control policies and in part due to economic and social factors. According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the average fertility rate for women nationwide was 1.6, and in the country’s most populous and prosperous city, Shanghai, the fertility rate was 0.8.
National family-planning authorities were gradually shifting emphasis from lowering fertility rates to emphasizing quality of care in family-planning practices. UNFPA reported that 87 percent of married couples used contraception but that contraception use was significantly lower in unmarried relationships. As a direct result, approximately half of abortions occurred among 15- to 24-year-old women. Among married couples, 72 percent used a reversible method of contraception. Only 1.2 percent of women took oral contraceptives. A 2013 survey published by the China World Contraception Day Organization showed that more than 68 percent of women were confused about contraceptive methods.
The national population and family-planning law standardized the implementation of the government’s birth-limitation policies, but it left considerable discretion to provincial authorities to determine enforcement measures, which varied significantly. The law grants married couples the right to have one birth and allows couples to apply for permission to have a second child if they meet conditions stipulated in local and provincial regulations.
During the year the policy allowing couples to have two children when at least one spouse is an only child remained in place. Implementing regulations for the amended policy were adopted on a province-by-province basis. The birth limit was more strictly applied in urban areas. In most rural areas, couples were permitted to have a second child in cases where their first child was a girl. Ethnic minorities were subject to less stringent rules. In 2013, 35 percent of families nationwide fell under the one-child restrictions, and more than 60 percent of families were eligible to have a second child, either outright or if they met certain criteria. The remaining 5 percent were eligible to have more than two children.
The National Population and Family Planning Commission reported that all provinces eliminated the birth-approval requirement before a first child was conceived, but provinces could still continue to require parents to register pregnancies prior to giving birth to their first child. This registration requirement could be used as a de facto permit system in some provinces, since some local governments continued to mandate abortion for single women who became pregnant. Provinces and localities imposed fines of various amounts on unwed mothers and forced some to have abortions.
Regulations requiring women who violate the family-planning policy to terminate their pregnancies still existed and were enforced in Anhui, Hebei, Hubei, Hunan, Jilin, Ningxia, Liaoning, and Heilongjiang provinces. Ten other provinces--Fujian, Guizhou, Guangdong, Gansu, Jiangxi, Qinghai, Sichuan, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Yunnan--require “remedial measures,” an official euphemism for abortion, to deal with unauthorized pregnancies. In the 13 remaining provinces where provincial regulations do not explicitly require termination of pregnancy or remedial measures, some local officials still coerced abortions to meet birth limitation quotas. For example, the Qingjiang Township CCP Committee and the government in Yueqing City, Wenzhou Municipality, issued a circular to local officials in July that called on them to launch a 15-day “second pregnancy examination” campaign and to adopt remedial measures for unauthorized pregnancies. A number of online media reports indicated that migrant women applying for household registration in Guangzhou were required to have an intrauterine contraceptive device implanted. In localities with large populations of migrant workers, officials specifically targeted migrant women to ensure that they did not exceed birth limitations. For example, the Pudong New District government in Shanghai Municipality issued a directive in May requiring officials to “promptly mobilize and adopt remedial measures” when unauthorized pregnancies were discovered among migrant women.
Discrimination: The constitution states that “women enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life.” The law provides for equality in ownership of property, inheritance rights, access to education, and equal pay for equal work. Many activists and observers expressed concern that discrimination was increasing. Women continued to report that discrimination, sexual harassment, unfair dismissal, demotion, and wage discrepancies were significant problems.
Authorities often did not enforce laws protecting the rights of women. According to legal experts, it was difficult to litigate sex-discrimination suits because of vague legal definitions. Some observers noted that the agencies tasked with protecting women’s rights tended to focus on maternity-related benefits and wrongful termination during maternity leave rather than on sex discrimination, violence against women, and sexual harassment.
Despite government policies mandating nondiscrimination in employment and remuneration, such discrimination occurred (see section 7.d.).
Women’s rights advocates indicated that in rural areas women often forfeited land and property rights to their husbands in divorce proceedings. Rural contract law and laws protecting women’s rights stipulate that women enjoy equal rights in cases of land management, but experts assserted that this was rarely the case due to the complexity of the law and difficulties in its implementation. A 2011 Supreme People’s Court decision exacerbated the gender wealth gap by stating that after divorce marital property belongs solely to the person registered as the homeowner in mortgage and registration documents--in most cases the husband. In determining child custody in divorce cases, judges made determinations based on the following guidelines: Children under age two should live with their mothers, custody of children two to nine years of age should be determined by who could provide the most stable living arrangement, and children 10 and over should be consulted when determining custody.
Female suicide rates in rural areas dropped signficantly. According to the Chinese Center for Disease and Control and Prevention, female suicide rates from 1990 to 2013 dropped between 36 percent and 81 percent, depending on the area. Researchers attributed the decrease to greater work opportunities for rural women and reduced access to the toxic pesticides used for suicide. A June report in The Economist estimated that the overall suicide rate, while still high, began to decline as populations moved from rural areas into cities.
Women faced discrimination in higher education. The required score for the National Higher Entrance Examination was lower for men than for women at several universities, but undergraduate and postgraduate enrollment levels for men and women were approximately the same. Women with advanced degrees, however, reported discrimination in the hiring process, since the job distribution system became more competitive and market driven.
Gender-biased Sex Selection: According to the the World Bank, in 2013 the gender ratio at birth was 116 males to 100 females. This was a decline from 2010, when the ratio was 118 males for every 100 females. Sex identification and sex-selective abortion are prohibited, but the practices continued because of traditional preference for male children and the birth-limitation policy.