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March 18, 2013

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New law sought to enforce women's rights

A NATIONAL legislator from Shanghai said there is a need for legislation with enforcement provisions to protect women's rights, citing discrimination against women in areas such as college admissions, job prospects and promotions.

Female students have to get higher scores than their male counterparts for some language majors at the national entrance exam, while women also face fewer job opportunities after graduation, said Ma Lan, dean of Fudan University's Institutes of Brain Science and also a national legislator.

"Though China has the law on the protection of women's rights, there is a lack of detailed measures to ensure the law is truly implemented and to punish the companies and schools that break the law," Ma said.

It is not uncommon at many local job fairs to see "men only'' on recruitment posters for technology or engineering positions - an exclusion that violates the law, she said.

In a recent case, a local employee, Zhang Li, was fired right after finishing her pregnancy leave late last year.

Her employer, a French sportswear company, said Zhang lied on her job application, claiming she was single, and that the company had the right to fire her.

The company was not named.

Zhang sued and the Pudong New Area People's Court decided in her favor, saying the company had no right to know her marital status.

The company was told to give Zhang her job back and pay more than 6,000 yuan (US$965) in medical expenses.

"Many women don't know that they don't have to tell their employer if they are single or married," said a local lawyer, Hong Guibin. "But the woman also should not lie to the company."

Male students preferred

Women also have to get higher entrance scores to enter some university programs, especially language training, according to Ma.

The Shanghai International Studies University, for instance, has said it will continue to implement the policy this year to attract more male students to study languages such as Arabic, Russian and Indonesian.

Last year, the school enrolled more than 70 male students at a college entrance score lower than their female counterparts from the same region.

The school said the policy is necessary not only to balance the gender ratio in some majors where there are as many as three women for every man, but also to meet the market's needs since men are preferred in some fields such as Arabic for cultural reasons.

"Male students are more able to take on hardships. They can endure frequent business trips without homesickness and worries about families and relationships," said a recruitment manager of a local manufacturing company at a job fair at Shanghai Jiao Tong University on Friday.

But Shao Qi, a law graduate of the school, said it is "improper to say if men or women are more suitable to learn a specific language." Shao said that while "women may encounter some difficulties in working in Arab countries, they can work for news agencies and foreign affairs departments."

Shao said she welcomes more male students, but there is no need for the school to discriminate against women.

Failing to get jobs, promotions

Nationally, nearly 10 percent of women below 30 years old failed to get a job or promotion because of their gender, according to a recent women's social status survey released by Tianjin authorities.

Another 7.9 percent said they had been fired because they were married or pregnant.

"Gender equality is a basic state policy, though gender discrimination still exists," said Jiao Yang, secretary of Party Committee of Shanghai Women's Federation.

"We have appealed for more departments (regulating areas) such as medical, technology, education and new industry to postpone the retirement age of women. It takes more than 20 years to educate a female doctor, and it is such a waste to have her retire at 55 years old," Jiao told Xinhua news agency.

"The average life expectancy of women in Shanghai is more than 80 years old. I think women can work as long as men," Jiao said.


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