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Rural Women's Rights Need Protection

Senior All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) official and National People's Congress (NPC) Deputy Zhen Yan said giving rural women equal access to the land they till is the key to ensuring they have true equality.

"Let alone participating in other social affairs, without land a woman cannot even get the respect she deserves and enjoy her rightful status in the family," Zhen said on the sidelines of the NPC annual session.

And women often do most of the work in the fields, and then have to attend to household chores in the country's vast rural areas, she said.

It is often the case that their own families deprive women of their share of land and/or compensation for land acquisition, said Cao Juxian, vice mayor of Yuncheng, Shanxi Province, who is also a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee member.

And quite often these women cannot get help from village officials because more than 90 percent of them are men. The men in power follow traditional beliefs that a married woman, being a member of her husband's family, has no claim on land in the village she was born in.

Among other women's issues, the right to equal compensation for land acquired for construction projects and access to politics at village and county levels has been Cao's focus.

"The ACWF has received many complaints from rural women who have been denied their share of compensation, or have not been compensated as much as men after their land was acquired," said Zhao Shaohua, the federation's vice chairwoman.

Some local governments have taken steps to prevent such incidents. Guangdong and Hubei provinces, for instance, have told local courts to accept all cases filed by women who have been "cheated".

"Considering women's contribution to Shanxi's rural economy, at least one-third of village heads there should be women, and each village should have a woman deputy head," Cao said.

Women rarely contest village elections because they are either too focused on domestic affairs or are too afraid to speak their minds, she said.

(China Daily March 8, 2008)

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