Sexism thrives in the Chinese workplace

February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Female workers in China are sexually discriminated against in the workplace, according to the country’s Women’s Commission. The commission has called for part-time workers to receive paternity rights to help counter discrimination against women who had to take pregnancy leave, and better rights for men to take time of to be with children.

Sharing the burden of childcare is something that’s been covered on this blog before  – but China is a particularly interesting country to look at. I heard a very plausible theory that China has flourished economically because of its commitment to getting women in the workplace – compare this with somewhere like India for example, where cultural and religious factors have traditionally excluded most women from the world of work.  If half of the population are kept in their homes, it can only hold back the economy and the state’s development.

Although historically women in China have been clearly placed as second class citizens – think bound feet, concubines, polygamy – the Communist Party brought with them a raft of rights for women, including the right to divorce and work. These principals have evolved over the last sixty years into a position where women traditionally control the household finances in the rapidly developing country. Men also vastly outnumber women due to the one-child policy and the status associated with having a boy, so when it comes to marriage and relationships, women are in a fairly strong position where they can afford to be picky.  

In the workplace however, two-thirds of women think they are discriminated against, and more than 70% of respondents thought men stood a better chance of promotion than women of similar age and abilities. This interesting post on the China Law Blog discusses how many women are keen to work in US or international companies based in China, because they are less likely to discriminate. A quarter of women even admitted they hold back at work and try not to be too successful because they know it might will cause trouble with their partners.

Almost half of men in a recent census said that they believed it was solely the man’s job to earn money, while the woman should remain at home and tend to the family.

Some attitudes are slow to change, but bringing in some of the laws proposed by China’s Women’s Commission would send a very clear message that family life is something that both men and women are responsible for, and a note of optimism for the masses of women who work in China and are struggling to choose between career or children.


India starts to take much-needed action on brothels

January 8, 2011 § 1 Comment

The arrest of two pimps in a raid in Chennai is a very welcome sign from the Anti-Vice Squad. Prositution is a massive problem in India for a plethora of reasons: poverty, women being trafficked, caste prejudice, drugs, the tourism sex trade, conservative attitudes. But a mountain is to be climbed stil as the police often remain reluctant to act on the mammoth problem. Pimps and the human sex trade provides healthy bribes to the authorities, and a policy of “don’t see, don’t act” has been the effective policy of the police.

18 women were rescued from the prostution ring in this raid, and the two pimps, both in their 50s were arrested.

The women were allegedly lured into the brothel after being promised work – then forced into sex work. The story is old. At any one time, estimates are that there are 15 million prostitutes in India, with a staggering 27 million children and women being forced to work as slaves in the sex trade each year.

Chennai police also cracked down on ten prostitution centres operating under the guise of spas – in 2009 there was not a single “spa” closed down by police. Assuming that these brothel spas have not all sprung up in a year, it is a very significant change in measures taken by Chennai police.

For the 18 women in their twenties, time for a new start and a new life. For countless others, the story is less positive and the problems are complex.

Brothel girls in India: taken for the Theatre of the absurd blog

Ten year old girl becoming mother is “a normal ritual”

November 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

The mother of the ten-year old girl who gave birth in Spain this week  is widely quoted in the press this morning as being puzzled by the media attention her daughter has received. She says it is a “normal ritual” for members of the Romanian Gypsy community. Even though it is not allowed by the Romanian law, custom allows the community to marry girls young. According to the custom the husband is normally of a similar age or a year or two older.

This case has largely caught the media attention because the birth took place in Spain, a nation where ten year olds giving birth is certainly not the norm. Only 177 girls under the age of 15 gave birth in Spain in 2008, according to stats from ANI (lower than many other European  countries, incidentally).

The youngest confirmed birth was Lina Medina, who gave birth at the age of five years, seven months and 21 days. This was an entirely different type of case – her father was arrested on charges of child abuse although was later released, but some kind of abuse has to have been the cause of this case, giving that the child was only five. Earlier this year a nine-year old girl in China was reported to have given birth – but again, some aspect of abuse could be presumed as her parents reported the case to the police.

In the case of the young Roma mother, her mother seem delighted with the pregnancy, and no police involvement has taken place yet. The newspapers suggest that the mother has already separated from the father, a 13 year old boy, and she will remain in Spain for the time being.

If entirely a matter of choice, then it’s not up to us to condemn or congratulate her for becoming a mother so young. However, you could speculate about the education the girl received – both formal and sex education. And if she’s ten, wouldn’t she be better off in school? Roma communities do not encourage women to pursue education in many cases. Post after post on this blog ends up by concluding that the more education and opportunity women have, the better. And convention would suggest that two parents are better than one – although this is a point that could be argued. Spain’s social services are investigating the welfare of baby and mother, although positive noises coming out from those involved suggest the two will be allowed to stay together.

Either way, to have a baby so young will mean the girl misses other opportunities. The custom for Roma girls to get married and have babies as young as ten, means motherhood is practically the only option for young uneducated women in that community.

UK women face worst fallout of nation’s cuts

October 20, 2010 § Leave a comment


As a journalist based in London, today has been entirely dominated by covering the Comprehensive Spending Review outlined by the Chancellor George Osborne. In a day packed with interviewing, gathering responses, and analysing, the most striking statement by a long way came from the Fawcett Society. The campaign group has pointed out in its response to Osborne’s announcement that women are already in the worst position in this age of austerity in Britain, which is facing a national deficit of £180bn this year. And today’s measures will further cement this trend.

The Fawcett Society has said that with 65% of public sector workers being women, they are the most exposed to the inevitable redundancies that must follow the announcements today. It also said women would be hit harder as they use the NHS more through maternity uses and childcare, and will struggle with the reduced benefits in social care, housing  and child care. As a result of the “quango bonfire”, the Women’s National Commission has also been axed, a move which Fawcett says will make it even more unlikely that government will have access to balanced advice on specific women’s needs.

This is a dark day for many vulnerable groups in the UK, and for women most of all.

“Women already typically earn less, own less, and have less financial independence than men. Government plans to reduce the deficit largely through cuts in public spending look set to worsen an already unjust situation.”

Russian mothers’ committee reminds of the importance of never giving up

October 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers was a group forged in war time, started by 300 women who began campaigning to bring sons home from the army to finish their studies.

In peace time, the organisation has only grown in support, being awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize  in 1996 and gaining international recognition. Its scope has grown and its name has changed to become the Union of the Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers, and it works now as a civil society group to monitor mandatory military service.

The female organisation describes itself as “maternal” rather than a “women’s” group, an interesting terminology – it has deliberately tried to distance itself from feminist groups and campaign along the parental lines. Yet the fact that they are “mothers” and not “parents” is what has drawn them international attention. While trying not to be a “women’s group” they are by definition playing on their role as women – placing themselves as the peacemakers .

An archived feature from news organisation TOL published again this week outlines some of the amazing achievements of this organisation in improving conditions for soldiers in Russia through the years. This year for the first time parents will be allowed to accompany their sons throughout the military recruitment process

Read this article. These women are so inspiring and this article is definitely worth reading to remind us what people, ordinary people, can achieve in the face of oppression.

The beginning!

September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Hello! And welcome to the very first post on the Gilded Cage blog. This blog is an attempt to bring together stories of women around the world, who are being neglected or forgotten,  fighting for equality for them or their communities, and covering issues that affect women’s rights around the world. Please do get in touch and send me your feedback , and I hope you find this blog  is interesting and inspiring, and maybe even both at the same time on occasions. Thanks!

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