Results of CEDAW’s findings on the 9th periodic review of China: despite progress in China’s implementation of CEDAW, major concerns remain
Women’s Rights Researcher,
Global Human Rights Defence.
On 30th May 2023, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) issued its Concluding Observations on China (including the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China and Macao SAR of China). The findings include both positive aspects of China's implementation of CEDAW and the main concerns and recommendations raised by the Committee (OHCHR, 2023).
The Committee expressed appreciation for the progress made since the examination of the State party's combined 7th and 8th periodic reports in 2014, specifically highlighting the following legislative reforms: amendment to the Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women in 2021 which covers women's political, work, social security, marriage and property rights and the adoption of Anti-Domestic Violence Law in 2015 which prohibits all forms of domestic violence, placing primary responsibility for preventing and ending domestic violence on the government. Further positive developments include China’s International Development Cooperation in the New Era, which identifies 8 areas of cooperation, including gender equality, in 2021 and the Programme for the Development of Chinese Women (2021-2030) which seeks to promote gender equality in eight priority areas including health, education, the economy, participation in decision-making, family building, social security, the environment and the law (CEDAW, 2023).
Principle areas of concern include the lack of a comprehensive definition of discrimination against women that explicitly prohibits all forms of direct and indirect discrimination, including intersecting forms, in both public and private spheres, aligning with articles 1 and 2 of the Convention. The Committee notes the inefficient implementation of the prohibition of discrimination against women with disabilities, LBTI, Uyghur and Tibetan and North Korean women. Therefore, the Committee called upon China to remove intersecting forms of discrimination and barriers faced by women and girls in accessing justice (CEDAW, 2023).
Other significant concerns of the Committee include the intimidation and harassment against women human rights defenders (including those who engage with the Committee) and the discrimination and human rights violations of ethnic minorities such as the forced labour of Uyghur women, forced abortions, forced sterilizations, and other forms of gender-based sexual violence against women in Xinjiang or the coerced boarding school system imposed on Tibetan girls (CEDAW, 2023).
In the “Comments on CEDAW Committee’s Concluding Observations on the Ninth Periodic Report of China” these latter concerns of the Committee were firmly opposed by the State party, claiming that “...Uyghur women choose freely their jobs and working places, and sign labour contracts with enterprises upon their own will. Their personal freedom is never restricted.” China also responded and sought to refute the concerns of forced sterilization or abortion with statistical data on the growing population of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. Finally, the country stated in response to the coercion of Tibetan girls to attend boarding schools, that these schools are established based on the needs of local students and these schools are “fundamentally different from those colonial boarding schools for indigenous people established by some western countries in the last century”(People's Republic of China, 2023).
Lastly, the Committee notes that the State party's commitment to the nine major international human rights instruments would contribute to the promotion and protection of women's human rights and fundamental freedoms across all areas of life, enabling their full enjoyment. The CEDAW, therefore, urges China to become a party to the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, both of which it has not yet ratified (CEDAW, 2023).
Sources and further readings:
OHCHR. (2023, May 30). UN women’s rights committee publishes findings on China, Germany, Iceland, Sao Tome and Principe, Slovakia, Spain, Timor-Leste and Venezuela. OHCHR Press Release. Retrieved June 5, 2023, from https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/05/un-womens-rights-committee-publishes-findings-china-germany-iceland-sao-tome
OHCHR. (2023, May 12). Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Commend China on Anti-Domestic Violence Legislation, Ask about Women’s Political Participation and Sex-Selective Abortions. OHCHR News. Retrieved June 5, 2023, from https://www.ohchr.org/en/news/2023/05/experts-committee-elimination-discrimination-against-women-commend-china-anti-domestic
CEDAW ‘Concluding observations on the ninth periodic report of China’ (30 May 2023) CEDAW/C/CHN/CO/9. Retrieved June 5, 2023, from https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/SessionDetails1.aspx?SessionID=2648&Lang=en
People's Republic of China. ‘Comments on CEDAW Committee’s Concluding Observations on the Ninth Periodic Report of China’. Unofficial Translation. 85 Session (08 May 2023 - 26 May 2023). Retrieved June 5, 2023, from https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/SessionDetails1.aspx?SessionID=2648&Lang=en