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UN Women’s Rights Committee Highlights Key Challenges Facing China’s Civil Society

November 12, 2014

In a report on the situation of women’s rights in China, a United Nations expert committee advances dozens of recommendations aimed at addressing their concerns, which, if adopted, would strengthen China’s civil society, including:

  • availability and transparency of data on policies and practices impacting women
  • access to justice for women’s rights violations
  • women’s political participation
  • the ability of civil society organizations to organize and participate in advancing women’s rights

In particular, experts on the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) highlighted two issues for additional follow up: (1) “reports of political interference with the judiciary, which affects . . . the outcomes of [women’s rights] cases…”; and (2) the under-representation of women in political office and “reports that women who stand for elections as independent candidates are subjected to abuse and violence.”

To improve women’s access to justice, the experts recommend that China “[prevent] all forms of interference with the judiciary by the political branch of the State . . .” and “ensure that women have effective access to justice” by providing legal aid and supporting nongovernmental organizations. To advance women’s political participation, the experts recommend the adoption of temporary special measures, such as quotas, thorough investigations into and adequate punishment of violence and abuse against women who stand for election as independent candidates, as well as the adoption of measures to facilitate participation of ethnic and religious minority women. The Committee has requested that China provide written information, within two years, on steps undertaken to implement these recommendations.

The Committee also detailed in the report systemic issues affecting the empowerment of women civil society actors, including:

  • The restriction of access to information required to assess the status of women’s rights under the state secrets system;
  • The reported existence of unregulated detention facilities known as “black jails,” where a disproportionate number of detainees are women petitioners;
  • The allegations of NGO reports being censored and information on travel restrictions on at least one woman human rights activist who intended to brief the Committee.

The report—officially called Concluding Observations—was issued following the Committee’s rigorous review of China conducted on October 23, 2014. This was China’s fifth review under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, an international treaty it ratified in 1980. The Committee’s request for a follow-up step—that China present information on implementing specific recommendations—is part of the on-going review process. That information is due in November 2016. In addition, in preparation for its next review before the Committee, China is required to submit its national report by November 2018.

HRIC Resources and Official Documents Relating to CEDAW:

Combined Seventh and Eighth Review (2014)

  • China’s combined seventh and eighth periodic report (2013): ENCH
  • List of issues and questions in relation to the combined seventh and eighth periodic report of China (2014): ENCH
  • HRIC pre-sessional submission in advance of the fifth review of China’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (2014): ENCH
  • Concluding observations on the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of China (2014): EN

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