A parallel NGO report by Human Rights in China (HRIC), submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in advance of its review of the combined fifth and sixth periodic reports of the People’s Republic of China on implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The People's Republic of China (PRC) was among the original 64 States to sign the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW or "the Convention") when it opened for signature at the 1980 Second World Conference on Women in Copenhagen, and the government ratified the Convention within the same year, in November 1980. Today, CEDAW has 183 State Parties and remains one of the most widely acceded international human rights treaties. Whereas the PRC combined 5th and 6th Periodic Report ("PRC Report") reflects some progress in reporting efforts since the previous round of reporting, including gathering and reporting of information, despite the PRC's long-standing support for CEDAW, serious challenges remain for effective domestic implementation of the Convention.
Over the past two decades, the PRC has seen an unprecedented level of rapid macroeconomic growth; yet domestic aggregated figures of China's prosperity conceal the uneven distribution of this wealth between rural and urban areas—and, more fundamentally, between men and women. Human Rights in China (HRIC) submits this report to facilitate the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women's (the Committee) examination of the PRC Report by highlighting specific areas of concern affecting Chinese women. The report will focus on discrimination (Article 1); trafficking and prostitution (Article 6); education (Article 10); health (Article 12); and domestic violence (Article 16). Particular emphasis will be placed on the situation of rural women and girls (Article 14), who continue to endure growing and persistent inequality in their access to education, health and employment, as well as the situation of ethnic minorities and migrant women, who face additional challenges in securing their rights.
The implementation of CEDAW in the PRC is detrimentally affected by lack of transparency and control of information. Much of the data and statistical information provided in the PRC Report are classified as state secrets by the government, including statistics on kidnapping and trafficking, induced abortions, infanticide and the gender ratio. The data provided, therefore, has first been vetted by the government, impacting comprehensive, accurate and complete review of implementation of the Convention by the Committee. At the domestic level, if civil society actors, including civil society organizations, ordinary citizens and the media, cannot have access to information that would enable them to review and assess the full extent of the various issues affecting Chinese women, then they cannot actively or effectively contribute to the promotion of women's rights in China. All these factors undermine the ability of the Chinese government to build meaningful partnerships with both local and international actors in the forming relevant and useful solutions for the advancement of women that is consistent with the goals and purposes of the Convention.
In addition to constraints on transparency, there remain significant gaps between the formal Chinese law and its compliance with international law to which the PRC is bound as a State Party. This HRIC report notes that these gaps can be the absence of a definition—"discrimination" is not defined under Chinese law—or definitions that are imprecise or inconsistent with the international definition, as in the case of "trafficking in persons" under Article 6 of CEDAW. Gaps are exacerbated by inadequate implementing mechanisms built into the legal system, as for cases of domestic violence in China. Despite the numerous laws cited in the PRC report promulgated to implement articles under the Convention, these gaps negatively impact the effective implementation of CEDAW in the PRC.
Summary of key issues by article
The following is a summary of the key issues by article highlighted in this HRIC parallel report to the PRC Report. A set of categorized and concise recommendations aimed at improving both the reporting process and a more comprehensive and effective implementation of the Convention follows this executive summary.