A strong voice for women's rights

By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-14 06:39

No one understands women better than women. Which is exactly why Shang Shaohua, a four-year CPPCC National Committee member, has decided to speak out on behalf of the female sex.

During this year's CPPCC annual session, Shang, 55, a media professional with more than three decades' experience, presented four proposals, most of which are concerned with women's rights issues.

The first called for greater clarity regarding the definition of sexual harassment as featured in the Women's Rights Protection Law.

"Most women will experience sexual harassment at some time in their lives," Shang said. "However, the law fails to protect them because of the vague definition of what actually constitutes the crime."

As a result, in about half of all reported cases, the accused is acquitted because of a lack of evidence, she said.

Another of Shang's proposals called on the government to encourage women in rural areas to play a greater role in the construction of the new socialist countryside. She said she wanted to see more employment opportunities created to allow women to remain in their hometowns.

"Instead of having to move to the city to find work, female farmers should be encouraged to stay at home where they can support the local economy and help to look after elderly relatives and children," she said.

Shang is keen to point out that, as a woman herself, she understands the issues that need to be addressed.

"I am more aware of the problems in women's lives. I know which issues have been ignored and which have been compromised," she said.

Shang's voice is considered particularly valuable because of the relatively low number of women employed in senior government positions.

"When you go to a government conference, all you see is a cloud of black suits," said Shang, who is also deputy editor-in-chief of Woman of China, a leading women's magazine.

"And the more senior the position is, the less likely it is to be held by a woman."

To achieve true gender equality in management, men and women must be allowed to compete on a level playing field, Shang said.

"At the moment, employers will only consider a woman for a management position if she is considerably better qualified than the men with whom she is competing."

As well as voicing her concern for women's rights issues, Shang is currently undertaking a project to study the relationship between women and religion.

Her research began in 2003 when she first became a CPPCC member and since then she has interviewed 50 women from five major religious groups and eight provinces.

Shang said that in this era of social and economic change, religion can provide women with essential psychological support.

"Women tend to be more dependent on religion than men," said Shang, who holds no religious beliefs.

"I have found that in China, women have a good relationship with religion and they benefit from that."

The research experience has also taught Shang to look at life differently.

"For women, the secret to a happy life is the ability to live more independently, more freely and more naturally," she said.

Shang's research is expected to be published in book form by the end of the year.

(China Daily 03/14/2007 page6)

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