The path towards equality of the sexes before the law has been a long road for China; one whose twists and turns have been sharp and crooked, and whose dips and crevices have been deep. China has made great strides down this road, but there is much ground yet to cover. Women in the world of Chinese law today are far better off than their counterparts a generation, or even a decade, ago; yet true gender equality has yet to be achieved. This paper analyzes the status of women in the law in China. It takes the form of a literature review of both Chinese and English language sources on the subject, drawing primarily from scholarly journals analyzing the subject going back as far as the late 1800s. This paper looks primarily at the status of women in the legal academy and profession, but also delves into the world of civil (that is, family or domestic) law in China and the current situation of the average female litigant in disputes in this area. In both instances, the status of women has been found to be disadvantaged in comparison to that of men. The literature finds that the laconic state of women persists today largely due to entrenched cultural norms and perspectives regarding the role of women as subordinate to men, pressures resulting from a China that has and continues to undergo massive societal and economic transition, and uniquely also from modes and norms of communication and power-sharing (such as “guānxī” and “face”) that seem to disadvantage women socially. These factors act as a countervailing force against more progressive trends that seek to build a more inclusive legal world for women in China, whether stemming from the rhetoric of the Communist Party or from the newer free market model which China has adopted. Progress towards gender equality in the law in China has been substantial, but is still wanting.
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