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Discrimination due to Gender or Sexuality

According to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, all citizens are equal and enjoy the same rights, regardless of gender, beliefs, or ethnic background. However, this legal equality does not always extend to the workplace or everyday life, and discrimination and racism in China do exist.
The number of female managers may be growing, but gender-based discrimination still exists in China.

Sexism in China

There have been a number of reports about Chinese universities where the needed admission scores are higher for women than for men in order to reach the desired gender quota. This is often the case when it comes to the natural sciences, a number of foreign language courses, as well as universities affiliated with the Chinese military or the police.

Similarly, for certain jobs (e.g. in engineering or for working abroad) men are still favored, despite the law that affords women the same rights as men. Such non-discrimination laws are, however, hardly enforced. Rather, women are still expected to see marriage and child-bearing as their first priority.

So-called sheng nu (“left-over women”), i.e. single women in their late 20s or older, are often pressured by the media, as well as their own families, to get married before it is “too late” and they end up as “undesirable spinsters”. Match-making parties see thousands of participants — and not just single men and women looking for the love of their life! Parents also attend these events, exchanging their children’s contact information with the relatives of potential matches.

Change seems to be under way, though. In what is widely considered the first gender discrimination lawsuit in China, Beijing graduate Cao Ju managed to get a settlement after suing a tutoring firm that would not consider her application because she was a woman.

Furthermore, according to a worldwide study by Grant Thornton and Forbes Insights on women in senior management positions, China is the world’s leader with 51% of female senior managers in 2013 — a steep rise from the previous year’s 25%. Business women are gaining ground in China, despite traditional values and gender roles that continue to play an important role in modern Chinese culture.

LGBT Issues in China

Traditional values with regard to marriage and families also exert a lot of influence on how LGBT people are perceived and treated. Homosexuality was considered illegal until 1997 and a mental disorder until 2001.

Nowadays, there are neither laws criminalizing same-sex relationships nor specific laws to protect the rights of LGBT people. Violent gay-bashing is very rare — it’s more of a live and let live attitude — and big cities like Shanghai and Beijing boast active and growing LGBT scenes.

However, traditional values and the pressure to carry on the family line continue to make life hard for gay and lesbian people in China. An estimated four in five still marry a person of the opposite sex and have children in order to save face and meet the demands of society and their own family.

Other homosexual couples go a different route by teaming up and entering marriage with a same-sex couple of the opposite gender to stop their families from complaining. Same-sex marriages or civil unions, on the other hand, are neither possible nor legally recognized if registered abroad.


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