Concluding observations on the ninth periodic report of China*
1. The Committee considered the ninth periodic report of China (CEDAW/C/CHN/9, CEDAW/C/CHN-HKG/9, CEDAW/C/CHN-MAC/9) at its 1977th and 1978th meetings (CEDAW/C/SR.1977 and CEDAW/C/SR.1978), held on 12 May 2023.
2. The Committee appreciates the submission by the State party of its ninth periodic report, as well as the State party’s written replies to the list of issues and questions raised by the pre-sessional working group in relation to the ninth periodic report (CEDAW/C/CHN/RQ/9 ). It also appreciates the State party’s follow-up report to the previous concluding observations of the Committee (CEDAW/C/CHN/CO/7-8/Add.1). It welcomes the oral presentation by the delegation and the further clarifications provided orally and in writing in response to the questions posed by the Committee during the dialogue.
3. The Committee commends the State party on its high-level delegation, which was headed by the Her Excellency Ms. HUANG Xiaowei, Vice Chairperson, National Working Committee on women and Children under State Council, and included the Social Development Committee of the National People’s Congress, the Supreme People’s Court, the Organisation Department of the CPC Central Committee, the Information Office of the State Council, the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education, Public Security, Civil Affairs, Justice Human Resources and Social Security, the National Ethnic Affairs Commission, the National Health Commission, the National Bureau of Statistics, and the National Administration for Disease Prevention and Control. The delegation also included members from Hong Kong SAR, China and Macao SAR, China.
B. Positive aspects
4. The Committee welcomes the progress achieved since the consideration in 2014 of the State party’s combined seventh and eighth periodic reports in undertaking legislative reforms, in particular the adoption of the following:
(a) The amendment to the Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women, which covers women’s political rights, rights in relation to the person and personality rights, in relation to culture and education, work and social security, property, marriage and the family, and also provides for remedies and corrective measures and on legal responsibility, including penal provisions, in October 2022;
(b) The Civil Code, which establishes civil liability for sexual harassment and requires employers to set up preventive mechanisms and provide timely remedies (article 1010), in May 2020;
(c) The amendment to the Law on Land Contracts in Rural Areas, which provides that all family members living in the same rural household enjoy equal rights and interests in land contracted in accordance with the law, and that land contract certificates or forest ownership certificates include all family members with the right to contract and manage the land, in 2018;
(d) The Regulation on Prohibiting Foetal Sex Identification and Sex-Selective Termination of Pregnancy for Non-Medical Purposes, in 2016;
(e) The Anti-Domestic Violence Law, prohibiting all forms of domestic violence; placing primary responsibility for preventing and ending domestic violence and protecting family members, in particular women, on the Government; and defining the specific responsibilities of government agencies, judicial organs and social organizations, in 2015;
(f) Amendment IX to the Criminal Law, qualifying the offence of soliciting underage prostitutes as a crime of rape with equivalent penalties, in 2015;
(g) Amendment IX to the Criminal Law, amending article 241, paragraph 6, of the Criminal Law, to criminalize any act of buying women and children who are victims of trafficking, in 2015.
5. The Committee welcomes the State party’s efforts to improve its institutional and policy framework aimed at accelerating the elimination of discrimination against women and promoting gender equality, such as the adoption of the following:
(a) The Action Plan against Trafficking in Persons (2021-2030) focusing on preventing fraudulent adoption, combating cyber-facilitated trafficking crimes, and improving labour recruitment procedures, with an emphasis on women and girls, in 2021;
(b) China’s International Development Cooperation in the New Era, which identifies 8 areas of cooperation, including gender equality, in 2021;
(c) The Programme for the Development of Chinese Women (2021-2030), which seeks to advance equality between women and men in eight priority areas, namely health, education, the economy, participation in decision-making and management, family building, social security, the environment and the law, in 2020;
(d) The Guidance on Promoting Workplace Gender Equality to compel employers to comply with relevant laws and regulations to ensure female workers’ rights, in 2019.
6. The Committee welcomes the fact that, in the period since the consideration of the previous report, the State party has ratified the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105) of the International Labour Organization (ILO), in 2022.
C. Sustainable Development Goals
7. The Committee welcomes the international support for the Sustainable Development Goals and calls for the realization of de jure (legal) and de facto (substantive) gender equality, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention, throughout the process of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Committee recalls the importance of Goal 5 and of the mainstreaming of the principles of equality and non-discrimination throughout all 17 Goals. It urges the State party to recognize women as the driving force of the sustainable development of China and to adopt relevant policies and strategies to that effect.
8. The Committee stresses the crucial role of the legislative power in ensuring the full implementation of the Convention (see A/65/38, part two, annex VI). It invites the National People’s Congress, in line with its mandate, to take the necessary steps regarding the implementation of the present concluding observations between now and the submission of the next periodic report under the Convention.
E. Principal areas of concern and recommendations: all parts of China
Women’s rights and gender equality in relation to the pandemic and recovery efforts
9. The Committee welcomes the adoption of policies and guidelines for institutions to ensure the accessibility of maternal health services during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the implementation of a programme to support women to recover from the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, and the issuance of guidance on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic prevention and control for elderly women and women with disabilities. However, the Committee is concerned that measures taken to contain the pandemic, such as restrictions on freedom of movement have disproportionately restricted women’s and girls’ access to justice, shelters, education, employment and health care, including sexual and reproductive health services.
10. The Committee, in line with its guidance note on the obligations of States parties to the Convention in the context of COVID-19, issued on 22 April 2020, recommends that the State party:
(a) Implement institutional, legislative and policy measures to redress long-standing inequalities between women and men and to give renewed impetus to the achievement of gender equality by placing women at the centre of COVID‑19 recovery strategies as a strategic priority for sustainable change, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals;
(b) Ensure that, in the context of post-crisis recovery plans, women and girls are not relegated to stereotypical gender roles;
(c) Ensure the equal participation of women and girls, including disadvantaged and marginalized groups of women, in the design and implementation of COVID-19 recovery programmes;
(d) Ensure that women and girls benefit equally from stimulus packages, including financial support for unpaid care work, aimed at mitigating the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic.
Legal status of the Convention and ratification of the Optional Protocol thereto
11. The Committee notes with appreciation the effort of consolidation of the legal framework on women’s rights, in particular the adoption of the Law on Protection of Women’s rights, and the engagement of the State party to reinforce the empowerment of women. The Committee remains concerned that the Convention is not directly applicable in the national courts of the State party and, as a result, its provisions have not been directly invoked nor applied in court proceedings. It is also concerned about the lack of information on cases brought to the courts or raised through other dispute resolution mechanisms, in which the Convention has been invoked. The Committee is further concerned that the State party has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol.
12. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/CHN/CO/7-8, para. 11) that the State party:
(a) Ensure that the provisions of the Convention are fully integrated into the national legal system, including by amending or repealing legislative provisions that are incompatible with the principles of equality and non-discrimination, and make the Convention a reference in the definition and implementation of the Agenda 2030, as well as in the international cooperation strategy of the State;
(b) Ensure that the Convention and general recommendations are made an integral part of systematic capacity-building for all judges with a view to enabling them to directly apply the provisions of the Convention and interpret national legal provisions in the light of the Convention, as well as of regular training for prosecutors, lawyers, police officers and other law enforcement officials, as well as government officials;
(c) Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention and train members of the judiciary, legal professionals and law enforcement officers on the Committee’s jurisprudence under the Optional Protocol;
F. Principal areas of concern and recommendations: China
Definition of discrimination against women
13. The Committee notes the amendment to the Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women. Nevertheless, it notes with concern the absence from the State party’s legislation of a comprehensive definition of discrimination against women, in accordance with articles 1 and 2 of the Convention. The Committee is concerned about the different treatment and protection of the law of women according to their sexual orientation, gender identity and their ethnic or religious affiliation. The Committee is concerned that Article 48 of the Constitution read with Article 49 advances a protective framework rather than a substantive equality framework in addressing gender equality.
14. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/CHN/CO/7-8, para. 13) and calls upon the State party to adopt a comprehensive definition of discrimination against women that explicitly prohibits direct and indirect discrimination in the public and private spheres, including intersecting forms of discrimination, in accordance with articles 1 and 2 of the Convention. It further recommends that the State party ensure the effective implementation of the prohibition of discrimination against all women facing discrimination, including women with disabilities, LBTI, Uyghur and Tibetan women, and North Korean women, through appropriate enforcement mechanisms and sanctions.
Women’ access to justice
15. The Committee welcomes the reform of legal aid and the engagement of the State party to reinforcing access to justice, but remains concerned that data showsgender bias on the part of many judges, who apply gender stereotypes and give little weight to women’s testimony, evidence and claims, and that some courts have dismissed up to 80% of women’s domestic violence claims in divorce proceedings. It further notes with concern that disadvantaged groups of women, such as women with disabilities, LBTI, Uyghur and Tibetan women,and North Korean women, face economic and linguistic barriers, as well as intersecting forms of discrimination, in accessing justice. It is also concerned by the lack of information on the number and outcome of cases of discrimination against women brought before the courts and competent authorities.
16. The Committee, recalling general recommendation No. 33 (2015) on women’s access to justice, recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure awareness-raising and capacity-building programmes for the judiciary and law students on women’s rights and gender equality, to eliminate judicial gender bias and discriminatory gender stereotypes;
(b) Ensure that these measures address, in particular, the credibility and weight given to women’s testimony, evidence and claims, as parties and witnesses in legal proceedings, as well as judicial bias as to what is considered to be appropriate behaviour for women;
(c) Remove intersecting forms of discrimination and barriers faced by women and girls, in particular women with disabilities, LBTI, Uyghur and Tibetan women, in accessing justice, including by sensitizing the judiciary on their equal rights and providing free legal aid to women without sufficient means and independent and professional translation and interpretation services, when needed.
National machinery for the advancement of women
17. The Committee takes note that eliminating gender-based discrimination is an important objective of the National Programmes for Women’s Development, that the new National Working Committee on Children and Women (NWCCW) established in 2019 has set up a national mechanism for gender equality-based review of laws and policies and is responsible for coordinating efforts to cover all aspects of women’s rights, through different ministries. The Committee remains concerned, however, at the lack of adequate information on the new national mechanism for gender equality-based review of laws and policies; the absence of evaluation reports on the impact of the Programme for Women; and the limited participation of civil society organizations, in particular independent women’s rights organizations, in the implementation and review of gender equality legislation and programmes.
18. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Strengthen the National Working Committee to enable it to conduct systematic assessments of the effectiveness and impact of the Programme for Women on women’s rights and leadership, in cooperation with civil society organizations, and independent women’s rights organizations; publicly report on the situation of women’s rights, and allocate adequate human, technical and financial resources to the national machinery for the advancement of women;
(b) Create an enabling environment and ensure the systematic and meaningful participation of independent women’s rights organizations, including those holding diverse and differing views, in the formulation and implementation of legislative and policy initiatives affecting women.
National human rights institution
19. The Committee welcomes the State’s acceptance of the UPR’s recommendation to consider the establishment of a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles. It regrets, however, the current absence of an independent national human rights institution.
20. Reiterating its previous recommendations (CEDAW/C/CHN/CO/7-8 , para. 17), the Committee recommends that the State party establish an independent national institution in accordance with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the Paris Principles, annexed to General Assembly resolution 48/134 of 20 December 1993), with a strong mandate on women’s rights and gender equality. It also recommends that, once operational, the national human rights institution should apply for accreditation to the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions.
Temporary special measures
21. The Committee notes that the legislation of the State party requires an “appropriate number of women deputies”. However, the Committee notes with concern that the State party has not adopted any temporary special measures since the consideration of its previous report.
22. In line with article 4 (1) of the Convention and its general recommendation No. 25 (2004) on temporary special measures, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Adopt temporary special measures to accelerate the achievement of substantive equality of women and men in areas where women are underrepresented or disadvantaged, in particular in decision-making and leadership positions in economic and political life, with time-bound targets and benchmarks;
(b) Introduce temporary special measures for women who face intersectional discrimination and suffer forms of deprivation in current and future public policies.
23. The Committee notes the advocacy campaigns aimed at eradicating son preference and promoting shared parenting, as well as article 68 of the Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women, which promotes co-parenting. However, the Committee remains concerned about the persistence of deep-rooted stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society, the traditional preference for sons, and the traditional perception that it is a man’s “duty” to give a male heir to his parents, resulting in cases of child abduction and alienation to ensure maintenance of the male child within the paternal family. It is further concerned about the lack of a regulatory framework to combat gender stereotypes in the media and advertising, including through a gender-specific code of ethics for media professionals.
24. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Adopt a specific strategy to eliminate discriminatory stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society, and intensify education programmes to promote equal sharing of childcare responsibilities and awareness of the joint responsibility of men and women for the upbringing and development of their children, whether girls or boys;
(c) Adopt a regulatory framework to combat gender stereotyping in the media and advertising, including a gender-specific code of ethics that promotes positive images of women and girls; and take measures including awareness raising to address the use of gender stereotypes and discriminatory content, language and portrayals of women by the media;
(d) Intensify education campaigns for the general public, public officials and media professionals on the use of gender-sensitive language to counter discriminatory gender stereotypes and objectification of women, and to promote positive portrayals of women as active drivers of development.
Gender-based violence against women
25. The Committee welcomes the adoption of the Anti-Domestic Violence Law, the creation of more than 2,000 family divisions and centres in courts, and the provision for protection orders and victim support services in the law of administrative penalties and criminal liability. However, the Committee is concerned that the stated goals of the Anti- Domestic Violence Law is harmonious relations between family members rather than the security of women and family members, and that a small percentage of all domestic violence reported to the police result in restraining orders, endangering the security of women and the family. It further notes with concern:
(a) That the Anti-Domestic Violence Law does not cover all forms of domestic violence, notably economic violence, economic control and negligence, nor violent acts by former intimate partners;
(b) The lack of capacity building for the judiciary, the police, other law enforcement officers and providers of victim support services, including shelters;
(c) Regional disparities in the measures to address domestic violence and women’s limited awareness of the remedies and services available under the Anti-Domestic Violence Law and the Law on administrative penalties and criminal liability.
26. Recalling its general recommendation No. 35 (2017) on gender-based violence against women, updating general recommendation No. 19, and in line with target 5.2 of the Sustainable Developments Goals, to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Amend the Anti-Domestic Violence Law to extend its protection to all forms of domestic violence, including economic violence, economic control and neglect, and violent acts by former intimate partners;
(b) Provide mandatory and continuous capacity-building for judges prosecutors, the police and other law enforcement officers, health and social workers, on the strict application of the Anti-Domestic Violence Law and the Law on administrative penalties and criminal liability, the issuance and monitoring of protection orders, gender-sensitive investigation and interrogation procedures, and the provision of victim support services;
(c) Raise awareness among women on the remedies and services available under the Anti-Domestic Violence Law and the Law on Administrative penalties and criminal liability, including protection orders and victim support services such as shelters and ensure the accessibility of these services throughout the State party, particularly in rural and remote areas;
(d) Ensure that all acts of gender-based violence against women are effectively investigated and perpetrators prosecuted and adequately punished.
Trafficking and exploitation of prostitution
27. The Committee notes the updated Action Plan for Combating Trafficking in Persons (2021–2030); the signature of cooperation agreements to prevent and combat trafficking in persons and joint anti‑trafficking initiatives with third States in the region; and the amendment of article 241, paragraph 6, of the Criminal Law concerning the crime of buying women and children who are victims of trafficking. The Committee remains concerned, however, about:
(a) Absence of comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation and the lack of clarity as to whether the legislation of the State party criminalizes all forms of trafficking, including trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced marriage, organ removals and illegal adoption, especially among Uyghur and Tibetan communities;
(b) High prevalence of trafficking in women and girls;
(c) Reports of organized criminal groups subjecting Chinese and foreign women and girls to forced labour in domestic service, forced concubinage and forced childbearing, and sex trafficking within and to the State party, luring victims with fraudulent job offers or forced and fraudulent marriage.
28. In line with its general recommendation No. 38 (2020) on trafficking in women and girls in the context of global migration, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Adopt comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation that includes a definition of trafficking which is in line with international standards;
(b) Strengthen early identification and referral of victims of trafficking, including by adopting guidelines for law enforcement officials and government-supported front-line responders;
(c) Ensure that women and girls who are victims of trafficking have access to temporary resident permits, irrespective of their willingness or ability to cooperate with the prosecution authorities as well as to adequate reparation and support services, including shelters, psychosocial counselling and rehabilitation programmes;
(d) Strengthen the systematic collection and analysis of data on trafficking, disaggregated by victims’ age, sex and nationality and by form of trafficking.
29. The Committee notes with concern that the State party is a country of destination for trafficking in women and girls from North Korea for purposes of sexual exploitation, forced marriage or concubinage. It also notes with concern that North Korean women and girls defectors are categorically classified as “illegal migrants” and some are forcibly returned. It further notes with concern that children born in the State party to North Korean women are deprived of their rights to birth registration, nationality, education and health care because their birth cannot be registered without exposing the mother to the risk of deportation to North Korea.
30. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure that North Korean women and girls victims of trafficking are not criminalized for violations of immigration laws and have access to temporary residence permits and to basic services, including medical treatment, psychosocial counselling, education, alternative income-generating opportunities and rehabilitation programmes;
(b) Provide the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and relevant humanitarian organizations, full and unimpeded access to victims of trafficking from North Korea;
(c) Regularize the status of North Korean and other women victims of trafficking who marry (voluntarily) or (by forced marriage or are in an unregistered union and) have a child with a Chinese citizen, and ensure that their children obtain birth registration, are eligible for Chinese nationality and have access to education and health care without discrimination (and would be allowed to leave China together with their North Korean mother/defector).
31. The Committee notes Amendment IX to the Penal Code, adopted in 2015, assimilating the offence of “soliciting underage prostitutes” to the crime of rape with equivalent penalties. It remains concerned, however, at reports that law enforcement officials continue to detain Chinese and foreign women on charges of “prostitution” and without due process in detention and re-education centres, where they are allegedly subjected to forced labour, despite the abolishment of the custody and re-education system for prostitution in 2019.
32. In line with its general recommendation No. 38 (2020) on trafficking in women and girls in the context of global migration, the Committee recommends that the State party address the root causes of exploitation of women and girls in prostitution, such as poverty and structural gender inequalities, and introduce measures to address the demand for prostitution and protect women from exploitation in prostitution, including by providing exit programmes and alternative income opportunities for women who wish to leave prostitution.
Equal participation of women in political and public life
33. The Committee notes that the representation of women has increased since its consideration of the combined seventh and eight periodic reports of the State party. However, it remains concerned that women represent only 26.54 per cent of deputies to the 14th National People’s Congress, and that since October 2022, there are no women at the highest executive level. The Committee is concerned that women constitute 35% of diplomats (2023), 11.3% of ambassadors (2022), 32.7% of judges (2017), and 22.3% of members of management teams of public institutions (2017).
34. Recalling its general recommendation No. 23 (1997) on women in political and public life and target 5.5 of the Sustainable Development Goals, to ensure women’s full and effective representation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Adopt temporary special measures, such as statutory quotas and a gender parity system, to ensure the equal representation of women in the Government, National and regional People’s Congress, CPPCC National Committee, the judiciary, public institutions and foreign service, in particular at decision-making levels;
(b) Provide capacity-building for women in leadership positions in political and public life and raise awareness among political leaders and the general public that the full, equal, free and democratic participation of women in political and public life on an equal basis with men is an essential condition for sustainable development and for the full implementation of the Convention.
Women human rights defenders and civil society
35. The Committee, while noting the information provided during the dialogue with the State party, remains concerned about excessive restrictions on the registration of non-governmental organizations, such as the requirement of sponsorship. It also notes with concern reports that women human rights defenders face intimidation, harassment including cases of sexual and other forms of gender-based violence by the police and other State officials for their work on women’s human rights, and that they may face harassment for their participation in the Committee’s review of the State party’s report.
36. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Amend its legislation on the registration of NGOs to repeal the requirement of sponsorship and all other disproportionate restrictions;
(b) Ensure the protection of women human rights defenders from intimidation, harassment and reprisals for their work, including when they have engaged or sought to engage with the Committee, immediately stop any such reprisals and ensure the protection of the women human rights defenders concerned and investigate and prosecute those responsible, including police officers and other State agents;
(c) Create an enabling environment for women human rights defenders from diverse communities to promote, protect and advocate for women’s human rights without fear of reprisals.
37. The Committee, while noting the information provided during the dialogue with the State party, remains concerned that the State party has not adopted a national asylum law or acceded to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and that it does not recognise dual citizenship. It also notes with concern that refugee, asylum seeking and migrant women’s limited access to civil registration procedures increases their risk of statelessness and may deprive them of access to basic services. It is further concerned at reports about the confiscation of passports from Tibetan and Uyghur women.
38. Recalling general recommendation No. 32 (2014) on the gender-related dimensions of refugee status, asylum, nationality and statelessness of women, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Amend its legislation to recognize dual citizenship, consider ratifying or acceding to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and adopt a national asylum law that is in conformity with international standards;
(b) Ensure that all women, including refugee, asylum seeking and migrant women have access to civil registration procedures and basic services, that passports are not confiscated on the basis of ethnic minority status and that national security legislation is not arbitrarily used to do so.
39. The Committee welcomes that the State party has achieved universal primary education. Noting the information provided during the dialogue with the State party, the Committee remains concerned, however, about:
(a) The limited integration of human rights education in curricula at all levels of education;
(b) Cases of sexual harassment and cyberbullying of girls at school;
(c) The lack of data on access to education for disadvantaged groups of girls and women;
(d) Reports on the closure of schools providing instruction in minority languages, such as Tibetan, Uyghur and Kazakh;
(e) Reports of a coerced residential (boarding) school system imposed on Tibetan girls.
40. In line with its general recommendation No. 36 (2017) on the right of girls and women to education, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Incorporate human rights education, including education on women’s rights and gender equality, into curricula at all levels of education; introduce mandatory teacher training on human rights education, training on ways to avoid reproducing gender inequalities in schools, and review educational materials with a view to removing gender stereotypes;
(b) Raise awareness among students, teachers and the general public of the new Regulations on the Protection of Minors at Schools adopted in 2021, which include provisions against sexual harassment and cyberbullying, and monitor the establishment of zero-tolerance handling mechanisms for bullying, sexual assault and harassment against students;
(c) Strengthen access for girls and women from disadvantaged groups, including rural girls, girls whose parents have migrated to urban areas, and girls and women with disabilities, to mainstream education at all levels and provide updated disaggregated data on their educational access in its next periodic report;
(d) Ensure that girls and women belonging to the ethnic minorities have access to instruction in their mother tongue, such as Tibetan, Uyghur and Kazakh, and reverse the closure of schools providing instruction in minority languages;
(e) Abolish the coerced residential (boarding) school system imposed on Tibetan girls and authorize the establishment of and subsidize private Tibetan schools.
41. The Committee welcomes the amendments to the Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests. It notes the issuance, in 2018, of the Circular on Addition of Causes of Action in Civil Cases, the adoption of the Civil Code, and the ratification of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). Noting the information provided during the dialogue with the State party, the Committee remains concerned, however about:
(a) Persistent employment discrimination based on pregnancy and maternity;
(b) The persistent gender pay gap, estimated at 20.8 percent, vertical and horizontal segregation in the labour market, and women’s significant underrepresentation in managerial positions;
(c) Women’s disproportionate burden of unpaid care work, which is 2.5 times higher for women than for men and constitutes a barrier to women’s economic participation;
(d) The maintenance of different retirement ages of 50 and 60 years, respectively, for women and men (with exceptions for certain female cadres who can retire at the age of 55), which reinforce stereotypes and maintain a gender-based income inequality, resulting in lower pension benefits and an increased risk of old age poverty for women;
(e) The high number of complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace;
(f) Reports that so-called “labour transfer” and “vocational training” programmes in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China relegate Tibetan women to training in low-skilled jobs and discard their unique skills;
(g) Reports of coercive employment measures for Uyghur women, including forced labour, and of sexual violence in vocational education and training centres for Uyghur women.
42. The Committee draws attention to its general recommendation No. 13 (1989) on equal remuneration for work of equal value and target 8.5 of the Sustainable Development Goals, to achieve, by 2030, full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, and equal pay for work of equal value, and recommends that the State party:
(a) Reinforce monitoring mechanisms, including regular labour inspections, and strengthen women’s access to confidential and independent complaint mechanisms, to address employment discrimination against women based on pregnancy and maternity; and ratify the Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention, 1981 (No. 156) and Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No. 183) of the International Labour Organization;
(b) Review wages in all sectors, apply gender-sensitive analytical job classification and evaluation methods, conduct regular pay surveys, with a view to better understanding the reasons for the gender wage gap, and strictly enforce the principle of equal pay for work of equal value in order to narrow and ultimately close the gender pay gap;
(c) Adopt legislation and policies requiring employers and provide incentives to enable women and men to balance work and family responsibilities, conduct awareness-raising campaigns to promote equal sharing of domestic responsibilities between women and men, develop and establish family-friendly services at the community level, and provide a sufficient number of adequate and affordable childcare facilities across the State party;
(d) Raise the retirement age of women to be equal to that of men, with a view to increasing pension benefits and addressing old age poverty of women;
(e) Provide mandatory training for employers, trade unions and employees on the prohibition of sexual harassment, ensure that all reports of sexual harassment are effectively investigated and that those responsible are adequately punished, and ratify the Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190) of the International Labour Organization;
(f) Immediately halt non-voluntary “labour transfer” and “vocational training” programmes in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, and carry out meaningful consultations with the affected women in order to explore alternative training options, including those that make full use of their unique skills and potential;
(g) Prohibit coercive employment measures, including forced labour of Uyghur women, immediately discontinue any such measures, release all women subject to forced labour, and prosecute and punish perpetrators, including State officials, of gender-based violence, such as sexual violence and harassment, against women in employment, notably in vocational training and education centres for Uyghur women.
43. The Committee welcomes the decrease in the maternal mortality rate and notes the adoption in 2019 of the Healthy China Initiative (2019-2030). It also notes the promulgation in 2016 of the Regulation on Prohibiting Foetal Sex Identification and Sex-Selective Termination of Pregnancy for Non-Medical Purposes and the objective set in the National Plan on Population Development (2016-2030) to intensify the fight against the identification of the sex of the foetus for non-medical purposes and against selective abortions based on the sex of the foetus. It further notes that free access to contraceptives has been included as one of the basic public health services since 2017, and that the amendment to the Law on the Protection of Minors, adopted in June 2021, has introduced age-appropriate sexuality education into school curricula. However, the Committee notes with concern:
(a) The unbalanced population sex ratio, whereby women make up 48.8% of the total population, and that the sex ratio at birth was 108.3 males born for every 100 females in 2021;
(b) The lack of sexual and reproductive health services, which are not fully integrated throughout the process of women’s health management and women’s rights;
(c) The lack of comprehensive education on sexual and reproductive health and rights in schools, and of youth-friendly and accessible sexual and reproductive health services for adolescent girls and young women;
(d) Allegations of coercive family planning practices, including forced abortions, forced sterilizations, and other forms of gender-based violence against women which may in certain cases amount to torture in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and in predominantly Uyghur-populated areas, which are reportedly one of the causes for significantly lower birth rates in those areas in comparison with the rest of the State party.
44. In line with its general recommendation No. 24 (1999) on women and health, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Provide capacity building to judges, prosecutors, police and other law enforcement officers as well as health professionals and service providers, on the strict application of the 2016 Regulation on Prohibiting Foetal Sex Identification and Sex-Selective Termination of Pregnancy for Non-Medical Purposes and other measures, including those envisaged in the National Plan on Population Development (2016-2030), aimed at preventing foetal sex identification for non-medical purposes, sex-selective abortion, forced abortion and sterilization, and female infanticide; and strengthen public awareness raising campaigns on the criminal nature of these practices; and utilize the lessons from the one and two child policies to promote improved management of women’s reproductive rights with the current three-child policy;
(b) Strengthen and fully integrated into the process of women’s health management sexual and reproductive health services and rights, including voluntary and rights-based family planning services enabling women and adolescent girls to make their own informed decisions about contraceptive use and methods;
(c) Integrate age-appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights into curricula at all levels of education, and strengthen confidential access for adolescent girls and young women to youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services;
(d) Take immediate steps to end, prevent and criminalize the use of coercive measures, such as forced abortions, forced sterilizations, other forms of gender-based sexual violence and other cruel, inhuman or degrading family planning practices that are allegedly inflicted on women in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and in predominantly Uyghur-populated areas, ensure that any cases of such practices are effectively investigated without delay and that those responsible are prosecuted and adequately punished and that victims receive adequate compensation.
Economic and social benefits
45. The Committee notes the high number of self-made women entrepreneurs and that women own 30.9 percent of all businesses. It notes with concern, however, that women are concentrated in service-sector jobs or work in rural areas for low pay; the disproportionately high number of lay-offs of women compared to men and the disproportionately high unemployment rate and poverty levels among women.
46. The Committee recommends that the State party promote women’s economic empowerment and to this end:
(a) Further strengthen women’s employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, in particular as company owners, and address the feminization of poverty;
(b) Establish obligations for public authorities, state enterprises and private companies to promote gender equality in public procurement, including by giving priority to bids by women-owned companies and companies that comply with minimum quota for women’s representation in management and executive boards in public tenders;
(c) Provide adequate support for women’s entrepreneurship by facilitating their access to financial credit, including low-interest loans without collateral, start-up funds and other income-generating opportunities.
47. The Committee appreciates all the efforts made by the State party to ensure women’s access to land ownership and use in rural areas, notably through the amendment to the Law on Land Contracts in Rural Areas and the Circular on the Acceleration of the Determination, Registration and Certification of Land for Domestic Use and Collective Construction. The Committee notes with concern, however, that the protection of rural women’s land rights remains weak, due to the impact of sexist stereotypes and prejudices that are most acutely expressed in the countryside, and high numbers of rural women have not registered their name in the land contract management right certificate or did not register their name in the family property use right certificate. It further notes with concern that rural women encounter unique challenges to property rights under the concept of “Waijianv” meaning “women married out”, where women who move out of the birth village post-marriage face unique challenges in accessing land tenure and inheritance of land; and that women who are widowed or divorced are faced with challenges retaining land in their husbands’ village.
48. In line with its general recommendation No. 34 (2016) on the rights of rural women and target 5.a of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure that women in rural areas have equal rights as men to contracted land and homestead rights;
(b) Ensure that women’s federations are represented on Rural Land Contract Arbitration Committees and that rural women have effective access to justice to claim their rights to and interests in land;
(c) Adopt procedures for monitoring, reviewing and, if necessary, challenging decisions of village assemblies, in order to ensure conformity with the legally protected rights of rural women, including their rights under the Convention;
(d) Facilitate rural women’s access to new technologies, agricultural assets such as chemicals, equipment, animal feed, seeds and energy, markets and marketing services, in addition to appropriate extension services;
(e) Expand rural women’s access to low-interest loans without collateral and other forms of financial credit;
(f) Protect the land rights of rural women by ensuring registration of their name on the land contract management right certificate, and on the family property use right certificate.
Climate change and disaster risk reduction
49. The Committee welcomes the adoption of the National Climate Change Adaptation Plan (2014–2020) and notes that nearly half of the members of the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2035 expert panel are women. However, it notes with concern the absence of a gender-responsive national strategy to address environmental risks and challenges, climate change and disaster risk management, including risk reduction, preparedness, response and rehabilitation.
50. In line with its general recommendation No. 37 (2018) on the gender-related dimensions of disaster risk reduction in the context of climate change, the Committee recommends that the State party ensure that women, including rural women, are equally represented as men in the development of legislation, policies and programmes on climate change, disaster response and disaster risk reduction. It also recommends that the State party integrate a gender perspective into such legislation and policies. It further recommends that the State party take measures to address the impact of climate change on women’s livelihoods and access to resources, in order to ensure that women are not disproportionately affected.
Disadvantaged groups of women
Women belonging to religious and ethnic minorities
51. The Committee takes notes of the information provided by the delegation during the dialogue with the State party, but nevertheless notes with concern:
(a) Reports that so-called “labour transfer” and “vocational training” programmes in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China undermine the religious, linguistic and cultural identity of Tibetan women;
(b) Reports about the imposition of forced interethnic marriages on Uyghur women and financial incentives for inter-ethnic marriages as a policy of assimilation;
(c) Reports that ethnic and religious minority women, such as Tibetan and Uyghur women, continue to face intersecting forms of discrimination and have limited access to education and employment and health care.
52. The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Immediately halt non-voluntary “labour transfer” and “vocational training” programmes in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, and respect, preserve and promote the cultural identity of women belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, including Tibetan and Uyghur women;
(b) Ensure the right of all women, including those belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, such as Uyghur women, freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent; that all cases of forced interethnic marriages of Uyghur women are effectively investigated and that those responsible, including public officials, are prosecuted and adequately punished; and raise awareness the general public and provide mandatory training to law enforcement officers and other public officials about the criminal nature of forced marriages;
(c) Eliminate intersecting forms of discrimination against women belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, such as Tibetan and Uyghur women, and ensure that they have adequate access to education, employment and health care and are proportionately represented in decision-making positions in political and public life;
(d) Recent landmark cases that ruled on transgender employment discrimination should be used as precedent setting cases.
Women with disabilities
53. The Committee notes that the 2016 Disability Prosperity Directive provides for the broadening of the means of participation in democratic processes for persons with disabilities and their organizations. However, it notes with concern that women with disabilities face exclusion from the labour market, institutionalization and high rates of gender-based violence.The Committee is also concerned about the shackling of women and girls with psycho-social disabilities due to stigma or lack of access to community services.
54. In line with its general recommendation No. 18 (1991) on women with disabilities, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure that women and girls with disabilities have adequate access to the labour market, as well as to justice and victim support services when they have experienced gender-based violence, and that they may freely decide where and with whom they choose to live;
(b) Address intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls with disabilities and ensure their inclusion and access to all rights under the Convention, including by eliminating restrictions on their legal capacity and ensuring their access to inclusive education, employment and health services, including sexual and reproductive health services;
(c) Ensure the dignified treatment of women and girls with psycho-social disabilities and effective access to mental health services.
Lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women
55. The Committee notes with concern that lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women face high levels of gender-based violence, stigmatization and intersecting forms of discrimination, including in accessing education, employment and health services. It also notes with concern the lack of legislation specifically prohibiting discrimination against lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women.
56. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Adopt legislative and policy measures to combat gender-based violence and discrimination against lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women, including hate speech and physical, verbal and emotional abuse;
(b) Protect the human rights of lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women in all areas covered by the Convention and conduct awareness-raising campaigns to address their stigmatization in society;
(c) Ensure that transgender women can change the gender marker in their passport and other identity documents, without onerous requirements;
(d) Ensure that lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women can freely participate in political and public life and exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly without fear of reprisals, harassment or intimidation.
Women in detention
57. The Committee notes with concern the high number of women in detention, including in extra-legal detention facilities and so-called “re-education” camps, where they are at risk of gender-based violence, torture and abuse. It also notes with concern information on the continued existence of unregulated detention facilities, known as “black jails”, where women are allegedly detained.
58. The Committee reiterates it previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/CHN/CO/7-8, para.49) and urges the State party to:
(a) Take measures to reduce the number of women in detention, including through targeted prevention programmes aimed at addressing the causes of women being in conflict with the law;
(b) Improve the conditions in detention facilities where women are deprived of liberty, in accordance with international standards and the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules), address overcrowding in prisons, guarantee separate accommodation for different categories of detainees as well as for women detained with their children and ensure the provision of adequate health services, including menstrual hygiene, to women in detention;
(c) Immediately close all extra-legal detention facilities (“black jails”) and release all women detained in such places of detention or transfer them to regular detention facilities or to prisons under the penitentiary system, and prosecute and adequately punish those operating extra-legal places of detention, including public officials and non-State actors;
(d) Provide in its next periodic report information on the number of women in detention, disaggregated by age, ethnicity, type of facility, reason for detention and length of detention.
Marriage and family relations
59. The Committee notes with concern that family courts rarely take incidents of gender-based violence into consideration on alimony payments or on decisions on child custody upon dissolution of a marriage, which may have a negative impact on women and their children who are victims of gender-based violence. The Committee is concerned that very few cases are designated as “typical” by the Supreme People Cases deal with family relations; that despite a shift to the three child policy, paternity leave policies and incentives for male care givers have remained relatively unchanged; that marriage abduction remains a problem; and that a 30 day cooling off period in the Marriage Law before finalizing a divorce might undermine the physical security of parties to a divorce.
60. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure that women have the same rights as men with regard to custody of children;
(b) Strictly enforce the Law on the Protection of Minors, which prohibits the practice of competing for custody rights by snatching or hiding underage children, and criminalize acts of “snatching and hiding” as child abduction;
(c) Ensure that family courts take incidents of domestic or other forms of gender-based violence into consideration when deciding on child custody and visitation rights upon dissolution of a marriage or de facto union;
(d) Ensure that the 30 days cooling off period should not be mandated.
*Adopted by the Committee at its eighty-fifth session (8-26 May 2023).