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Exclusive Interview with the Head of UN Women China on Gender Equality and Gender-based Violence

By Arianna Qianru James | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-12-12 17:43

Exclusive Interview with the Head of UN Women China on Gender Equality and Gender-based Violence

On November 24th, UN Women jumpstarted the 2017 #OrangetheWorld campaign with a bang. The 'Orange the World' awareness campaign spans 16 days, wherein individuals and groups alike are encouraged to spread information and awareness about gender-based violence. Awareness about gender inequality and the violence so often perpetuated against women and girls is paramount in the fight to bring an end to these issues. Ms. Julie Broussard, Country Program Manager of UN Women China, gave China Daily an exclusive look into the current and future state of gender equality in China.

China Daily: How would you evaluate China's gender equality accomplishments and steps against domestic and sexual violence in the past five years?

Ms. Julie Broussard: In the last five years, China has made a lot of progress in stopping violence. It passed and enacted the first national law against domestic violence and that was a huge step forward. It sends a very strong signal to all people in China that domestic violence is a crime and it is not going to be tolerated anymore and that kind of signal on the national level is critical.

China Daily: What unique challenges does China face on the road to gender equality and ending sexual and domestic violence?

Ms. Julie Broussard: Poverty remains a challenge. We don't have the statistics to prove it but I suspect that the violence rate is higher in rural areas than it is in the cities. We do not know that for sure but we know that rural women in general, even if they're not facing more violence, are facing more challenges because they do not have the economic means, they have less access to a social network that might help them, and they have less access to lawyers and prosecutors. So they have very special needs. The other group that is particularly vulnerable here is people living with disabilities. They're extremely vulnerable to violence worldwide and of course they are in China too.

China Daily: Conversely, do you think China has any advantages and cultural beliefs that would quicken this process?

Ms. Julie Broussard: The way of thinking in China is very strong on maintaining the solidarity of the group. The group, the family, the society, is paramount. What needs to happen is for people to realize that when one person in the group is suffering then the whole group is suffering. That full realization has not come about yet; it has started and we can see that when people talk about violence and the fact that more cases are reported in the media, but it is a 20 year transformation that we can see in other countries, and it will be the same here.

China Daily: Is there any country in particular that has become the champion of gender equality and fighting back against gender-based violence?

Ms. Julie Broussard: There's no one country that we can say that has the best model. Every country is trying to deal with domestic violence and other forms of violence in ways that suit their own national context. And when China was formulating its law we invited 13 experts from 11 other countries to come and share their country's experiences with the drafting committee here in China and they had a wide variety of experiences to share in terms of what worked and what didn't work. The drafting committee took some of those suggestions and incorporated them into China's law and others they didn't take. But what we do know is that you have to have a law that is enforced and to enforce it, the people who enforce it really have to be trained. That is the stage we're in now. We're trying to train police and judiciary and civil affairs and women's federations and NGO's – everybody.

China Daily: What can we do – on an individual level – to help achieve gender equality and end sexual violence?

Ms. Julie Broussard: I think the media has a lot of responsibility to report on the whole topic in general. I think the media also has to start to question stereotypes about men and women, boys and girls that are perpetuated through advertising, programming, and entertainment. I think there is a lot of unconscious stereotyping about what is right for boys and men and what is right for girls and women and it affects people's assumptions about what they can get away with.

China Daily: The hash tag #MeToo was trending worldwide but was especially popular in the United States as a show of solidarity among women and victims of sexual assault. Do you think the same phenomenon would ever occur in China on Weibo or QQ? Would that help to encourage women to come forward about their experiences?

Ms. Julie Broussard: I suspect that is a few years in the future for China. I don't think the Chinese public is quite ready for that yet. One reason is that the stigma against victims here is a bit stronger. It is very hard for a victim here to come forward because she will face a lot of stigma not only from the perpetrator but sometimes from her own family. They will not support her speaking out and that is very hard, when you face that level of condemnation. Also, I'll be honest and I'll say that in the United States we have seen all these allegations against Harvey Weinstein, who is a very powerful person. My sense is that powerful men here are protected a little bit more. So China's not quite in that stage where people can be open about that.

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