Jun 26, 2019 in Law

Women's Rights in India and China

Most people separate themselves from the severe reality of what millions have to face every day in different parts of the world. Although, each individual has a right to a secure and happy life, global problems and miseries of nations directly or indirectly influence personal wellbeing of everyone. Thus, each person can do something to make a difference and change the situation simply by sharing the information with the others. Once the information of what people have to go through comes outside of the community, it raises chances to save people and provide them with hope. Although, we live in a progressive world driven by technology, social problems still exist and need to be resolved. Violation of women's rights can be regarded as one of the crucial social problems in the modern world. In this regard, current paper will compare the issue of women’s rights in two countries – India and China. Both countries underwent an impact of patriarchies that in turn led to the violation of women's rights. Moreover, certain historical events caused the discrimination of women in India and China. At the same time, this social problem is very important to these countries because, despite the constitution's guarantees, women continue to suffer from inequality and male domination. Therefore, it is critical to throw the light on human rights of women in China and India, basing it on evidence and facts, in order to find out possible ways to eliminate this social problem and empower female population.

Human Rights Are Integral Rights

Human rights are the fundamental indivisible rights a person has, being a member of a human society, whatever the nationality, origin, sex, religion, color of skin, or any other status. However, India and China are the two countries where women are deprived of the basic rights. Although, the constitution of India ensures the equality between women and men, women’s human rights are being continuously violated in every sphere of their lives. According to article 14 of the Constitution of India, government should not refuse to any human equality before the law (Dhanoa, 2011). Moreover, every person has a right to the equal protection of laws on the territory of the state. At the same time, the state cannot discriminate against any human living in India based on sex (Begum, 2014). Nevertheless, being born in the male-dominated society, women in India very often suffer from dishonor and discrimination. According to the research data, in 2010, trafficking and importation of women in India have rapidly increased, reaching over 20%, including young girls (Saryal, 2014). Furthermore, Indian women become victims of bride burning, dowry, female foeticide, rape, and sexual harassment. While the discrimination of Indian women is not an existing phenomenon, it is critical to investigate the reasons why this problem is pervasive in India.


Status of Women in India: Extent of the Problem

In Indian society, women historically have always been considered subordinate to men. Starting from the early times, women in India have been exploited in different ways. The history knows various practices and customs, which subordinate women to men or simply violate their rights. In the past, Indian women were facing such practices as Devadasis, Jauhar, Purdah, and an old custom Sati. The above-mentioned traditions forced women to sacrifice their rights in order to protect or honor their husbands. In the 19th century, once the bourgeoisie democratic revolutions ended, women in India were deprived of their rights because of their gender (Saryal, 2014). Although, women in India perform a multilateral role in the society such as being a daughter, wife, mother, and breadwinner of the family, they lack many rights in comparison to men. Historically, women have to fight for their rights in order to be recognized in the society. 

Women in India are deprived of their human rights in many areas, including equality, education, liberty, politics, livelihood, and terms of personal life. In many states in India, the proportion of women is lower than the proportion of men, and this phenomenon has a simple explanation. Indians often sell the girls from the poor families to men from the states, where the above-mentioned problem exists. Furthermore, there is another violation of women's rights in India. While the role of dowry is greatly important, the number of dowry deaths of Indian women rapidly grows (Dhanoa, 2011). Dowry also has a strong influence in defining women’s position in the family. For instance, if husbands were satisfied with the dowry, it would reduce the risk of facing physical and sexual harassment in the family. At the same time, women in India suffer from domestic violence primarily caused by the patriarchal nature of the society. Child marriage is also not a new phenomenon that violates women's human rights. Many women in India become a prey of rape and sexual abuse that violates a woman's body and lowers self-respect, making women feel scared and weak. Moreover, regarding the sphere of education, the Indian Constitution has expanded women's rights, but for many of them education remains a distant dream. The main reason for low number of females in primary schools, specifically among the higher classes, is that parents want girls to take care of the siblings, as well as work with them or help with the household work. In addition, the political status of Indian women is very weak; particularly a poor representation of women in Parliament and provincial Legislation deprives women of possibility to improve their position in society (Begum, 2014). Thus, it is clear that male domination in most spheres of Indian life provides women with a very little support.

Position of Chinese Women: Magnitude of the Problem

In comparison to India, the position of Chinese women also remains unsatisfactory. Although since 1949 the status of Chinese women has changed for the better, some violations of women's rights such as gender inequality and socio-economic harassment still exist in contemporary China. According to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (UNDHR)  and the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which the state has signed, women and men have to be treated equally (Fry, 2009). However, in practice, the state government denies women's human rights, promoting gender inequality. Thus, starting from the mid-nineteenth century until present days, the movements in favor of women's human rights began to take place. Although, the Constitution of 1982 provided both men and women with equal rights in socio-economic, political, and cultural spheres of life, women's fight against discrimination continues. 

In contemporary China, gender discrimination is obvious. It should be noted that, Chinese society underwent the influence of Communism and economic liberalism that in turn shaped its system of norms and values (Attane, 2012). Confucianism, as a dominant ideology in China, discriminates women. For example, the concept of silent women, who were supposed to stay at home, was widely accepted. Only those women deserved to be valued and honored in society (Fry, 2009). Thereby, Chinese society was in many ways strongly tied to its social and family customs. Nevertheless, during the Maoist period, the state prioritized gender equality and appointed women to leadership positions working directly with men. When Mao died, the country shifted to the social market economic system that, in accordance, promoted the equality of men and women. In contemporary China, women's human rights are not clearly defined or protected. Moreover, the patriarchal impact can be felt until present days. Chinese women are deprived of the right to land and the right to work. Similarly to India, in China there is a difference between actual women's rights and those, which are guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution. Therefore, the attitude of society towards women in China and India, as well as the abuse of their rights testifies to its duality.

In fact, the position of Chinese women in education, employment, social, economic, healthcare, and family areas, as well as in matters of inheritance, political representation, and salaries remains unequal in comparison to men. Although, many women have equal with men rights to obtain education in rural zones, the access to educational resources differ from the one women in cities have. According to the study, in 2010, women from cities attended school 2.2 years longer than women in rural areas (Attane, 2012). The possible reason for such situation is the fact that very often the price of education is different for boys and girls. Since the benefit of education for girls has become in most cases prohibitive for many families, the rates of educated women have lowered. At the same time, expectations of family for boys remain higher than for girls making the gender inequality even stronger. According to the ACWF-2000 survey, parents make a decision for their children to leave the school. In addition, nearly 9.1 percent of parents view education as an unnecessary thing for girls (Attane, 2012). Rights of Chinese women in employment sphere have also faced some transformations, but unfortunately in a way that is greatly less beneficial to them. Although, the data from surveys show that the employment rate among Chinese women is considered to be amongst the highest in the world, in practice, urban women fail to find a job and, thus, are forced to return to their homes. At the same time, in comparison to India, almost three Chinese women out of four are officially employed, whereas in the former, only one woman out of three works. Nevertheless, in 2005, the percentage of women employed in urban places had significantly reduced (Attane, 2012). Additionally, geographical location has a crucial role for the employment situation. In the countryside, rural women are greatly involved into agricultural activities thus dominating women in urban areas. Therefore, despite of some changes in economic and employment realms, there the violation of women's rights in China continues to exist.

At the same time, Chinese women are facing sexual discrimination in the job market, what denies gender equality guaranteed them by the Constitution. Studies show that around 70 percent of the women have been unfairly dismissed because of marriage or pregnancy (Attane, 2012). Moreover, doing the same work, women receive a lower salary than their male colleagues do. According to the independent survey (2009), 20.5 percent of interviewed men stated that it was a norm, whereas 41.8 percent agreed that it was an unfair but acceptable practice (Attane, 2012). The increasing inequality between salaries of men and women mainly in the cities is accompanied by harder and longer working hours for women. Furthermore, the violation of women's rights can be also observed in the private life. In many ways including reproductive health and fertility control, the overall condition of Chinese women has improved. The significant drop in maternal mortality displays the extent to which Chinese women get a better health care. According to the data obtained in 2008, the state recorded 38 cases of maternal deaths per 100,000 births. It was a very good result compared to the record in India that was 230 deaths per 100,000 (Attane, 2012). Moreover, most Chinese women are satisfied with their status in the family and roles performed by their husbands. Nevertheless, 24.7 percent of these women claim that they have become the victim of domestic violence including verbal and physical harassment, forced sexual relationship, limitations of personal liberty, and economic dependence (Attane, 2012). In many respects, Chinese women remain under control of husbands in the gender unequal marriage. This state of affairs can be linked to the unequal salaries that in accordance provide them with unequal access to financial resources. At the same time, current situation can be explained by the strong influence of patriarchal traditions that have always favored the masculine role in the household and society (Kahne and Westheimer, 2006). Thus, the issues of property and inheritance remain unresolved. Although, the Constitution of China guarantees women with equal rights to inherit, execution of the law is unsuccessful, since men have much more privileges in the particular sphere. Therefore, the violation of women's rights in China can be explained by the internalization of gendered roles in family, as well as a great impact of patriarchy on the established social norms.

Patriarchy as the Reason of Problem Emergence in Two Countries

Patriarchy can be regarded as one of the main factors that account for the violation of women's human rights in both countries. Patriarchy is a set of ideas and traditions shaping the culture of society embodied in every sphere of people's life (Sarkar, 2010). The oppression of women is a key factor in the ideology of patriarchy. Moreover, it is a defining feature of traditional Indian, as well as Chinese society. In China, patriarchy has a great impact on Chinese women oppressing them and depriving them of their rights in political and socio-economic life. In China, women were economically dependent on men, and thus they did not own any property and did not have any inheritance rights. Moreover, the latter was passed down the male line. Chinese women were deprived of the right to choose a husband because parents of the future spouses arranged all marriages (Kahne and Westheimer, 2006). Comparing to India, male children were more preferred and valued over girls. In addition, there existed a practice that if a husband died, parents did not allow woman to re-marry. In fact, women had to obey the wish of their parents, and, thus, remained widows until their last days. Furthermore, women, specifically from wealthy families, were subjected to the practice of binding their feet in order to display their status (Burnett, 2010). The following of this cruel tradition eventually led to different health disabilities. In general, Chinese women underwent physical and mental harassment, being tortured by polygamy and prostitution. For centuries, Chinese women were considered as people of second class forced to perform their role within the realm of the household. 

Similarly to China, Indian society has undergone strong influence of patriarchy. It manifested in different oppressions including such extremes as dowry, dowry death, and sati. Moreover, the present-day examples of female oppression caused by patriarchy include feticide, the disproportionate gender rates within the country, male control over women's personal life including decision-making and desire to be employed, and the belief that the principal role of women is to serve men. Living in the patriarchal society, Indian, as well as Chinese women are economically dependent on men and have limited choices and rights in terms of education, employment, and life. In contrast to China, Indian women remain in stricter conditions, since from the day they are born until the day they die, women are expected to serve their husbands and remain under the male control. Once the girl is married ( parents arrange most marriages in India), she becomes the property of her husband (Liam, 2008). In Indian family, girl is not as highly valued as boy, and the former is often viewed as both economic and social burden. Indian women have low status in society that has made them quite susceptible to abuse. Finally, patriarchal structure of society contributes to the violence and discrimination against Indian women.

Efforts to Reduce the Social Problem

In contrast to India, Chinese women have gained more rights leading to their independence. It should be noted that several steps have been taken in the state that tackle this social problem. In 1990, the Government of China established the National Working Committee on Women and Children (NWCWC) in order to promote gender equality. Nowadays, the organizational structure of this agency has greatly developed by setting up its units in 31 provinces (The United Nations, 2007). In 1995, the government has applied the Programs for the Development of Chinese Women. It is the first program to support gender equality. In 2001, the government issued the second national action program designed for ten years (The United Nations, 2007). The latter document has given more benefits for Chinese women. Thus, the program increased the percentage of women involved in political affairs, raised the employment level of females, enhanced the level of education among Chinese women, and improved their health status. Therefore, the Government of China takes measures to improve the conditions of women in society.

Currently, China has basically created a legal system for defending women's rights and supporting women's development. The Constitution and the Law on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests are the main government documents aimed to protect women's rights in economic, politic, cultural, and healthcare spheres. In 2000 and later in 2003, the Government of China put forward to the United Nations two reports portraying and analyzing China's implementation of the documents that eliminated manifestations of discrimination against women (The United Nations, 2007). Since the reforms have been embodied, women in China received new opportunities, mainly because of the rapid economic growth and upturn in higher education. Moreover, the Chinese Government constantly revises and formulates laws and regulations to guarantee equal rights to all citizens. Since 1998, the National People's Congress revised a set of laws, which concern the areas where the violations of women's rights occur such as marriage, crimes against minors, family planning, and trade. Thus, over the past ten years the Chinese Government has formulated and revised a number of administrative rules and regulations in order to protect women's rights in different spheres.

At the same time, non-governmental organizations had a great beneficial impact on the position of Chinese women in society. The member units of NWCWC contain five Non-Governmental Organizations, which have developed their own programs in order to promote rights of Chinese women. The collaboration of NGOs and Government of China have brought many achievements, including protection of female employees, helping urban women with employment, encouraging women to participate in politics, raising female awareness about healthcare, and defending women's personal rights. The biggest women's NGO in the country, All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), has embodied various activities to safeguard women's rights. For instance, the organization created the system of women cadres involving women in the juridical system as jurors at courts. Furthermore, ACWF has established the system of legal managers for labor protection. Nowadays, the particular system exists in 29 provinces where more than 2000 women act as legal supervisors for work protection (The United Nations, 2007). Thus, NGOs together with Government of China have achieved positive results in protection and promotion of women's rights.

In India, the situation is somewhat different. The Constitution of India is the main legal document that contains articles referring to the issue of women's rights and their protection. The constitution makers made some efforts to raise the status of women in society conferring special rights upon them. According to the Article 42 of the Constitution, the state guarantees to ensure the maternity leave to female workers (Saryal, 2014). Over the years, Indian Parliament has taken meaningful steps to empower women. Therefore, a number of laws have been passed in order to promote women's rights. Some of these documents are Equal Remuneration Act, the Dowry Prohibition Act, and the Sati Prevention Act. To provide women with equal rights to participate in politics at the national and state level, the Indian Government established the bill, which reserved 33% of seats in both national and states legislatures for women. In addition to this, in 1990, National Commission for Women (NCW) had been created to take a deeper look into the particular social problem (Saryal, 2014). The organization had to deal with the cases linked to the violation of women’s rights. The efforts made by the NCW to eliminate the problem were significant. The organization has pressurized the government to legislate stricter laws to promote and develop women's rights, as well as to deal with the cases of domestic violence, rape, and physical harassment. In addition, Non-Governmental Organizations supports Indian women to obtain their rights. For example, Women Power Connect is an organization that works to provide women with a successful execution of gender legislation and to ensure women’s participation in political life of the country. Thus, many steps have been taken to empower Indian women, but their position within society remains unstable, specifically in rural areas.

Despite of the Made Efforts the Problem Still Exists

While great efforts have been made by both governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations to empower women in both countries, the particular social problem continues to exist in current times. Although, modern Chinese and Indian women have gained more rights due to developments, successive laws, and rights movements, their equality with men, as well as status in society is far from secure. On one hand, the government of both countries passes laws and guarantees to ensure equality of men and women by the Constitution. On the other hand, on practice many women remain dependent on men in most scopes of life. Based on the research, one can state that this social problem will not be completely resolved in the next ten years. Moreover, great efforts should be put in order to change the patriarchal systems in the countries that are embodied in the cultures. To empower females, NGOs have to change the attitude of the society towards women. Moreover, the harmful traditions should be left in past. Nowadays, Indian and Chinese women need to be more informed about their legal rights in order to rebuild their lives and confidence. Violence and discrimination against women can be destroyed only when attitudes and cultural norms towards females are changed. Starting from the early years, children should be taught that men and women are equal and possess the same rights. Therefore, one can predict that the next ten years will be very challenging to India and China concerning the violation of women’s rights.


Therefore, women’s human rights in India and China have a complex history and a challenging present. Although the women’s contribution to the development of the state is equal to that the men’s, they continue to face many limitations, which deprive them of their rights. The government in both India and China has to prioritize the interests of women and provide them with their rights not only in the constitution, but also in practice. Unfortunately, this goal is far from being realized. In fact, women in China and India lack their fundamental right to equality, as well as dignity. Therefore, a person interested in the violation of women’s rights can learn a lot from comparing these two countries. While the paper consists of many evidence and data from different scholarly sources, one can find out more veritable information on the particular issue. Moreover, the comparison of the two countries provides an individual interested in the particular problem with possibility to look at situation and conditions and see how they are similar or different. In addition, one can find the possible ways to eliminate this social problem and empower women.


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