BEIJING: China is all set to pass a new stringent law to protect the rights of women - eliminating discrimination against them at all levels - amid growing cases of domestic violence, sexual harassment and suppression of the #MeToo movement.
The draft revision to the 'Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women' was submitted for its first reading on Monday to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature.
The legislative move is another major revision to the law which was enacted nearly 30 years ago, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Often criticised as a rubber stamp Parliament for routinely endorsing the ruling Communist Party of China's proposals, the NPC is expected to pass the draft bill soon.
The draft outlaws the use of superstitious and "mind-control" practices on women and bans employers from asking female applicants about their marital or pregnancy status under proposed changes to its existing women's law.
Employers would not be able to turn away women applicants because of their pregnancy or marital status under the draft law, which also protects salary and benefits for those who are pregnant or on maternity leave.
The Communist Party-owned newspaper, Beijing News reported that one example of practices deemed to be mentally manipulative: "female morality classes" was expected to be banned under the revised law.
In the past, such classes were a frequent occurrence and aimed to use brainwashing methods to control women and make them feel inferior to their partners.
Common rhetoric used included "don't fight back when beaten" and "don't talk back when scolded."
Women attending these classes were also told they needed to stay pure, "as promiscuous women get gangrene."
They do not; gangrene, the death of tissue due to a lack of blood supply, is usually caused by injury or infection, not sexual contact, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
The draft also includes provisions on safeguarding women's safety and human dignity.
Pestering or harassing women under the pretext of being in a relationship, or after the end of cohabitation or divorce, are prohibited by the draft, as well as divulging or disseminating women's private personal information.
The draft also clarifies the joint duties of both husband and wife in family life.
Women shall, at the time of divorce, have the right to request the husband to make compensation if the wife has been shouldering more duties in respect of bringing up the child, taking care of the old and assisting the husband in work, among others, the Xinhua report said.
The revised law comes amid greater discussion of domestic violence in China.
The past few years have also seen more debate on sexual harassment amid the #MeToo movement that began in China in 2018 when Luo Xixi, a former Shanghai University of Finance and Economics student, accused a professor of sexually harassing her.
He was fired by the university and since then, many other women from universities, NGOs, tech companies and the entertainment industry have come forward with complaints, the Post reported.
The latest #MeToo case involved Chinese tennis pro-Peng Shuai who went missing after she alleged on China's social media platform, WeChat, on November 17 that she was forced into a sexual relationship by China's former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, 75, after his retirement from power in 2017 Her explosive allegation was scrubbed out of the social media site by Chinese censors within minutes.
Subsequently, she appeared in official media videos amid the international furore.
No action was taken against Zhang either.
Also, the CPC has been facing criticism for promoting fewer women to higher positions of power.
Bai Zhi, a founder of the Inspection Squad for Workplace Gender Discrimination, which monitors job advertisements and Chinese workplaces, said the organisation had come across many blatant cases of gender-based discrimination.
In 2019, the organisation received 822 reports of gender-based discrimination in the workplace and it reported at least 150 of these to labour authorities, according to a document Bai sent to the Post.
They received responses to 79 of those reports.
Bai said even when the group reported cases of companies only hiring men, those businesses did not acknowledge that it was discrimination.
"They don't change their behaviour, they say it's because it is specialist work," she told the Post.