Supporting efforts to counter domestic violence in China
It is 25 years since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. There were many Chinese participants in the World Conference and many became inspired to work for gender equality in China. Domestic violence was a priority area at the World Conference and this encouraged a group of Chinese women to set up an organisation called the Anti-Domestic Violence Network (ADVN) affiliated to the China Law Society in 2000. At that time domestic violence was still considered taboo and a very private matter. The NCHR supported the work of ADVN for over a decade. While the network retained close links to China’s official women’s organisation, the All China Women’s Federation (ACWF), it also utilized national information campaigns. Linking up to TV and soap operas also played an important role in changing people’s minds about domestic violence over the years. ADVN became a strong contributor to China’s first anti-domestic violence law that entered into force in 2016.
The new law definitely marked a milestone in combating domestic violence in China, but some major challenges remain. One such challenge is how to actually enforce the law. More knowledge about the law and how it can be used, is needed. To try to address the gap between the formal law and actual practices the NCHR cooperated with Chinese academics in 2018 and 2019 to support the production of three handbooks on domestic violence. The NCHR is now involved in supporting education for local women unions’ staff, local elderly peoples committees, social workers, child welfare workers, health workers, teachers etc. on how the law and the new handbooks can be used to prevent abuse and to protect or assist victims of domestic violence in China.
Education for gender equality
Chinese women have more formal legal rights than in 1995 and the landscape of Chinese organisations and activists working for women’s rights has changed a lot. There is more diversity and more critical voices than before, but also more pressure from above to conform. There is still a large gap between theory and practice for women’s rights, and discriminatory practices still exist on many levels in China. Much more knowledge about gender equality issues is needed for changes to occur.
One way that the NCHR has tried to contribute to increased knowledge has been through support to the education of Chinese university teachers on gender and human rights issues. Together with the Constitutional Research Institute at China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) and the Swedish Raoul Wallenberg Institute (RWI) the NCHR has sought to inspire Chinese teachers to include gender equality issues in their teaching activities. Focus has been on discrimination issues and on discussions of how to teach women’s rights, sexual orientation and gender identity from a human rights perspective. When the cooperation started in 2017, only three universities in China offered separate courses on women’s rights and gender equality. Following their participation in the NCHR supported trainings however, 11 more teachers have opened courses on gender and human rights at their own universities. Many more report that they are including gender and human rights in their other courses and teaching activities.
First Chinese textbook on gender and human rights
Another way of contributing to increased knowledge about gender equality issues in China is the publication of the first Chinese textbook on gender and human rights. The book is written by an editorial group of Chinese researchers and civil society representatives with special knowledge about gender equality and human rights. The editorial group visited Oslo in 2018 and met with representatives from many Norwegian organisations and institutions working on gender equality issues. The textbook aims at inspiring more Chinese university teachers to include a gender perspective in their teaching activities. The authors also hope that the book will contribute to increased public awareness about gender equality issues and the links between gender and human rights in China. The textbook was finished late 2019 and will be published this spring.