China has further improved the legal protection system for women and continued to crack down on crimes that infringe their lawful rights and interests.
In October, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the nation's top legislative body, approved the revised law on the protection of women's legitimate rights and interests.
The revision, which will take effect on Jan 1, provides several new measures, including improvements to the mechanisms for preventing and dealing with sexual harassment and sexual assault, stronger protection of the rights and interests of women in need, and punishment of gender discrimination in the workplace.
The law also stipulates that judicial bodies can send recommendations or initiate public interest litigation against those whose behavior seriously impairs women's rights and interests.
Qiu Jinghui, deputy director of the eighth procuratorial division of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, said the revised law adds a clause related to the use of public interest litigation to protect women, providing a direct legal basis for judicial bodies to introduce such litigation in the field. Some departments may have shortcomings in the process of performing their duties to protect women, so such public interest litigation can be used to help resolve emerging problems, he said.
The SPP will focus on notable problems of public interest injury that infringe upon women's legitimate rights and interests in the fields of employment, social security, personal rights, property and other factors, and will strengthen case-handling efforts and respond to social concerns, Qiu said.
According to the report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which was presented by Xi Jinping on behalf of the 19th CPC Central Committee and approved by the 20th CPC National Congress in October, the country will remain committed to the fundamental national policy of gender equality, protect the lawful rights and interests of women and children, improve the social security and service systems, and promote the all-around development of related programs to help all people with disabilities.
In addition to the violations of women's rights and interests listed in the law, other serious violations or related problems, such as domestic violence, can now also be included in public interest litigation.
In practice, local governments have begun to actively explore public interest litigation to punish perpetrators of domestic violence, said Li Yueyang, deputy head of the Legal Department at the All-China Women's Federation.
In one case related to the protection of women's rights released by the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the family members of a woman surnamed Jin in Baoying county, Jiangsu province, reported to the local women's federation that Jin, who has an intellectual disability, had been beaten and injured by her husband in June 2020.
The county's procuratorate later found that the receiving hospital failed to report the matter to the police, despite noting that Jin had been beaten. In addition, nearly 87 percent of medical institutions in Baoying failed to implement the mandatory reporting system, while the relevant administrative authorities failed to perform their supervisory roles correctly.
In November last year, when the local procuratorate and women's federation launched a special operation to use public interest litigation to eradicate domestic violence, it was discovered that local public security organs and health departments had loopholes in their working practices.
Later, the procuratorate urged the police to send a warning letter to Jin's husband.
In addition, it sent a procuratorial suggestion to the local health department urging it to correctly perform its reporting and supervision duties. In the follow-up process, the county's procuratorate issued a judicial relief grant to Jin and helped her apply for a disabled person's living allowance after she obtained a divorce.
Ren Yuan, a professor at the School of Social Development and Public Policy of Fudan University in Shanghai, said the enactment and revision of the law have great significance for the protection of women's social rights and interests, and for the greater promotion of their development in society.
In the process of social development, some new phenomena have emerged, such as changes to marriage and families, and a rise in the migratory population. In order to adapt to these changes, it is necessary to constantly refine measures to protect women's rights and interests to better promote their all-around development, he said.
The legislation reflects the government and society's concern about the issue, and all sectors of society should pay attention to the implementation of the revised law, which also requires comprehensive supervision and the standardization of the legal procedures for resolving affairs related to women, he said.
"In addition, the authorities need to formulate and revise relevant policies to address some prominent problems facing women's development, such as child care for the female migrant population and maternity insurance for workers in flexible employment to better protect the development of women's rights and interests, and to promote the development of women in society," he said.