China’s new blueprint for women’s development strengthens their rights

Women workers participate in a fun game to celebrate the upcoming International Women’s Day at Jinhehua Primary School in Jinhu County, Huai’an City, east China’s Jiangsu Province, March 7, 2018. / Xinhua

Women workers participate in a fun game to celebrate the upcoming International Women’s Day at Jinhehua Primary School in Jinhu County, Huai’an City, east China’s Jiangsu Province, March 7, 2018. / Xinhua

Editor’s Note: Li Juan is a researcher and lecturer at the Human Rights Institute at the Southwest University of Political Science and Law. The article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of CGTN.

On September 27, the State Council released “Outline of Women’s Development in China (2021-30),” a medium and long-term plan for the implementation of the basic national policy of gender equality in the new era.

The new Plan aims to prolong the lives of women and improve their health, the main area of ​​development. This shows that China values ​​the protection of human rights, especially the rights of women. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sustainable development can only be achieved when women ultimately have the right to make free, informed and responsible choices and can consciously protect their rights and interests in society. Women’s health is an essential part of Health for All.

The new Plan emphasizes the reproductive health of women and proposes strategies and measures, in particular the popularization of sex education, the sharing of contraceptive responsibilities between men and women, the guarantee of the right of women to have sex. informed choices about contraception and birth control, prevention of unintended pregnancies and reduction of non-medical abortions. purposes. Reproductive health is an important part of women’s health and is closely linked to each individual, family and the health of the offspring.

The 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development and the 1995 Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women linked reproductive health issues to women’s rights, stressing that the right to reproductive choice is a fundamental human right and must be protected and respected.

A daughter reads a book with her mother in Beijing, China May 12, 2019. / Xinhua

A daughter reads a book with her mother in Beijing, China May 12, 2019. / Xinhua

However, the strategies and measures proposed by the Outline have also given rise to misunderstandings, such as the belief that reducing non-medical abortions limits women’s reproductive freedom. This interpretation is wrong and ignores the facts.

First, reducing the non-medical purposes of abortion must be interpreted within the target framework of reducing unintended pregnancies and improving women’s reproductive health, and its starting point is to better protect the life and health of women. women’s physical health. As sex has become more and more common among young people, the lack of knowledge about contraceptives has led to a gradual increase in unwanted pregnancies. For example, a 2015 China Daily report found that about 13 million abortions were performed in China, and 62 percent of abortions were performed on women aged 20 to 29. In addition, the “2020 Report on Reproductive Health in China” indicates that 25.9 out of 1,000 women in China underwent induced abortions in 2014, and that number increased to 28.3 in 2018. The year 2018 to she alone saw a repeat abortion rate of 55.9%, meaning that 55.9 out of 100 women who had an induced abortion had it twice or more. Besides these hard facts, pregnancy terminations adversely affect women’s reproductive health, easily causing complications such as habitual abortion and infertility. Therefore, sex education is crucial to prevent unwanted pregnancies, reduce non-medical abortions, and protect women’s reproductive health.

Second, reducing routine abortions also aims to eliminate gender-selective terminations of pregnancy. The Chinese government has taken action to ban abortion caused by the sex of a fetus. However, some places in China still have a strong preference for sons, and many women are forced to undergo multiple abortions to give birth to boys; some even lost their lives. Restrictions on this behavior would therefore guarantee women’s reproductive choice, rather than limiting their freedom. Abortion of female fetuses seriously violates women’s rights to life and health and undermines the achievement of gender equality. Therefore, measures to reduce abortions for non-medical purposes are needed.

In conclusion, as China allows couples to have three children, women’s reproductive rights are in urgent need of protection. The new Plan provided a basic framework for protection, but ensuring women’s health still has a long way to go.

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Mara R. Wilmoth