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Subject: Safeguarding Rural Women's Rights and Interests on Land Contracts
Category: 国内
Time: March 3, 2017
Source: Women of China
Keyword: ACWF, Zhang Jing
Full text:
At China's annual session of the top national advisory body, Zhang Jing, a political advisor, put forward a proposal to safeguarding women's rights and interests of farmland contractual management on behalf of the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF).

According to the spirit of Decision of the CCCPC (Central Committee of the Communist Party of China) on Some Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening the Reform, the State shall protect the right to rural land contractual management in accordance with the Law on the Contracting of Rural Land and empower farmers with relevant rights, including the right to the possession, use and circulation of, as well as profits and interests from, the contracted land. It also ensures their right to the mortgage and security of the operation of the contractual land. The measures are based on sticking to the household contracted management system of farmers and stabilizing the rural land contracting relationship.

Meanwhile, the Opinions on Guiding the Orderly Circulation of Rural Land Management Rights for the Development of Agricultural Operations at an Appropriate Scale, as issued by the General Office of the Central Committee of the CPC and the General Office of the State Council, specifies that the separation of three farmland rights, namely collective ownership, contractual rights and management rights, is the key modification of the Law of the Contracting of Rural Land.

In order to effectively prevent disputes and conflicts resulting from unspecific ownership and rules of benefit distribution and to further safeguard rural women's land contracting rights and interests, Zhang Jing, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, put forward a proposal at the fifth session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee.

Add the amendment, "Within the party undertaking the contracting by households, all family members qualified as members of the economic organizations of the said rural collectives shall share the rights to land contracts, enjoying equal rights and interests in accordance with relevant laws" in Article 15 of the Law on the Contracting of Rural Land (2009 Amendment).

The modification aims to focus on the rights and interests of every farmer and other appropriate laws for the interpretations of the members' rights within the family, and, the realization paths, which set aside space for formulating the clause on family members' community property in marriage and family law in the Civil Law. By doing this, the law could prevent conflicts and disputes over interests within farmers' households and between farmers and village collectives from the source.

Main Reason: The basic function and purpose of the real rights protection is to prevent property holders from illegal infringement. Although the Property Law promulgated in 2007 has clarified the usufructuary rights of land contractual management rights, and the documents of the Central Committee have also emphasized strengthening the real rights protection of land contracting rights. The function and purpose of the real rights protection would still fail to be realized if the right holder is unspecific and the applicable rules of rights protection are unclear.

Specifying the Definition of 'Family': Property Relationships within Households

Regarding the family unit as the right holder, relevant clauses of the Law on the Contracting of Rural Land should further clarify the scope of the family and applicable norms of property relationships within households.

In 2016, the ACWF accepted over 8,000 cases of rural women's complaints of rights and interests on farm land.

On the one hand, dramatic changes have taken place in China's rural areas since China's reform and opening up. The traditional family system of father-son succession is collapsing.

With fast-paced urbanization, many rural residents go to cities to receive education, seek employment and get married.

Diverse family patterns have emerged, such as divorced families, remarried families and empty-nesting families, whose children do not live with them.

Also, whilst most daughters take on the responsibility of supporting elderly family members, they still fail to enjoy equal rights and interests as they're restricted by traditional gender norms of women's subordination.

Confronted with such a complex situation, if the legislative departments consider all farmer families as the same benefit community in a simple and general way, the uncertainty of family patterns will inevitably affect the stability of the household's contractual rights and the realization of contracting power and function.

Promoting Specific Provisions on Women's Rights and Interests on Land Contracts

In the proposal, Zhang also stresses that related laws are supposed to expressly regulate how to safeguard women's rights and interests.

On the one hand, without considering the contradictions between the flexibility of family members and the immobility of farmland, village collectives and households are equipped with the decision-making power of distributing family members' farmland.

On the other hand, following the traditional Chinese patriarchal family system, women's household identity is unstable and fluid depending on their marital status.

Therefore, women's lack of decision-making power on family finance and the instability of women's legal empowerment creates a vicious cycle, reinforcing women's subordinated position.

In village collectives and families, women's right to know, right of participation and right to make decisions will fail to be safeguarded. Under these circumstances, women are labourers, cultivators instead of rights holder.

Guaranteeing Everyone's Legislative Justice on Land Contracts

In addition, the proposal further notes that with the development of China's legal system, the key issue for related lawmakers and the government is to make regulations which can ensure collectives and households have fair distribution of household contractual rights and interests.

Regarding the size of the population and the quantity of farmland in China's rural areas, legislative officials should clarify that the distribution rule and right of household contracting land does not need to regard the 'person' as the unit.

In the current situation, conflicts and disputes resulting from unclear power relations in households have more severe impact on the speed of land circulation, the fair distribution of benefits and the harmony and stability of rural societies.

Therefore, to ensure the achievement of expected legislative justice, when it comes to the gender-neutral clauses on rights in contracting land, lawmakers should further consider the distribution status of economic organization collectives and households, and specify the power boundaries and realization paths of every household member in related legal procedures and relief clauses.
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