Women and Development: China versus India


The paper investigates the problem of the rights of women in China and India. In both cultures, there exist the stereotypes that cause the discrimination of women. For example, women do not have access to free education and medicine, and the birth of a boy is often preferred to the birth of a girl. At the same time, the governments of both countries support the rights of women and try to overcome the discrimination problems.


Equality between men and women is essential for any democratic society that accepts social justice and respect for human rights. In fact, in all countries and spheres of activity, women face discrimination. There takes place discrimination in a family, society, and the workplace. Although the causes and consequences of this may be different in certain countries, the discrimination against women is a widespread phenomenon. The presence of stereotypes and traditional cultural and religious practices and beliefs are favorable for preserving discrimination. The last few decades in the history of humanity have been marked by a particular interest to the solution of discrimination problems. In particular, that interest is noticeable in the democratic countries of Europe and North America. However, the paper focuses the attention on the situation of women in Asian countries, such as India and China, to overview what they have achieved in their struggle for equality, and to investigate the problems they are facing.

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When investigating the situation of gender equality in China, it should be taken into consideration that Chinese society was subjected to the influence of patriarchy, which had deep historical roots. In addition to the economic dependence, the Chinese women suffered from the absence of rights in nearly all spheres of life. The process of inheritance was built exclusively for the male representatives of the country. Married women were totally dependent on their husbands; the unmarried women had to obey their parents. In the case of death of the spouse, it was not allowed for them to get married again. The boys in families were considered to have a higher status than girls who were humiliated and often sold to the other families. Women in China were subjected to physical and moral violence. In the society, there existed polygamy; prostitution was widely spread in the country.

Despite the governmental efforts, traditional gender stereotypes continue playing an important role in determining the status of women, especially in rural areas. Among the stereotypes, there takes place the preference of boys to girls in families, a traditional engagement of women in the household sphere that does not give them the opportunity to fully participate in public affairs, gender division of labor in the household, etc. In the modern world, the traditional gender stereotypes have a negative impact not only on women but also on men who experience excessive social pressure and responsibility.

Together with the involvement of market relations in the social sphere, there also takes place the discrimination against women and girls. Despite the fact that China there exists nine-year compulsory education, due to the introduction of partial payment for education, the gender gap in education has significantly increased. In China, there is a high level of illiteracy, particularly among women, who live in rural areas. Due to this fact, it is difficult for women to get involved in economic and political life, and, in some cases, it is not possible for females to use the current legislation to protect their rights.

In rural areas, where the rate of school attendance is generally lower than in urban areas, girls are often forced to leave schools. Parents believe that the education of daughters is economically less efficient than educating sons because after marriage girls are forced to leave their families. The growth in the price for educational services together with the need for the child labor in agriculture lead to the fact that many girls are practically illiterate.

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For a long time, gender stereotypes did not allow women to get employed in the education system. Currently, the gender gap between teachers of both genders is almost eliminated. This fact allows hoping that the female teachers will have an impact on the perception of the new gender role models by the public consciousness, and the girls will no longer be forced to leave school.

One more factor for the growth of discrimination against women is the commercialization of sphere of public health. Since 1949, the free and affordable health care based on the system of mandatory health insurance has been a priority for the Chinese government. However, the transition to the market economy led to the destruction of the system of health insurance. With the abolishment of socialism, in the rural areas there do no longer exist health care establishments that guarantee free medical aid, and in the cities, the medical services are usually expensive for the citizens. The volume of services that require additional payments is constantly growing. The basic medical insurance for urban residents only affects those who work in state enterprises and their family members. Due to the fact that there are more men among the employees of the public sector, the majority of people, who have medical insurance are males. In rural areas, health service has become almost inaccessible. The majority of rural families prefer to spend their resources on the maintenance of health of men and boys.

In China, the trafficking of women and children has been extremely widespread throughout the history of the country. Unfortunately, even now it is not possible to combat the problem. The Chinese legislature considers the sale and purchase of women and children to be a criminal offense. However, since in most cases, these acts are committed by fathers, husbands, and brothers of the victims, the government does not impose the responsibility on those individuals who commit such actions and return a woman or a child to their place of residence.

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At the same time, with the transition to market relations and the policy of openness, the family relations in China have been significantly changed. In the country, there takes place the increasing number of divorces that earlier were not permissible for women. There increases the number of single people and one child nuclear families. In particular, there appear changes in the relations between the sexes. There takes place a movement from patrilineal to bilineal families. The patrilocal settlement of spouses is no longer mandatory. As a result, many people refuse from the traditional beliefs, according to which, the birth of a boy is preferred to the birth of a girl. Statistical data indicate that the majority of population does no longer wish to have a large family and does not give preference to a particular gender of the child. However, it the past, due to the abortions, there were prevented more than 400 million births. Elderly people expect support from adult children regardless of their sex. The status of women, especially in urban areas, has been significantly improved. Daughters obtained the right to inherit parental property. There also takes place a redistribution of the housekeeping duties and taking care of children between men and women.

India belongs to the few developing countries, where gender equality and the improvement of the social status of women are claimed to be the most important goals of social and economic policy. As well as in China, the state obligations are determined by the Constitution, that guarantees the provision of freedom and equality of women. Despite this fact, gender inequality is one of the typical features of the Indian society. Similar to China, in the country, men lead in nearly all spheres of social life, and often women are forced to live in poverty because of the inability to get employed. The subordinate status of women is observed in all spheres of the society.

Different from China, the status and position of women in India are dependent belonging to a particular social class. For example, women from rural areas, who are forced to work for wages, are more independent than women, who are forced to live on the income of their husbands. The employment of a woman guarantees additional freedom and creates favorable conditions for the establishment of social contacts. The ability of a woman to earn money and to contribute to the family budget is a significant factor for the economic autonomy. However, only the representatives of the lower castes, which allow divorce and remarriage, are permitted to be employed. As well as in China, in the higher castes, in accordance with traditions, a woman should not work for a fee and should not leave the house without a significant reason. Women from high-castes do not have to demand a divorce or to remarry when widowed.

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Similar to China, women in India are subjected to severe discrimination in the labor market and cannot find a high-paying job. In addition, for a girl to get married, it is necessary to provide her with a dowry, which has to be saved for many years, and the wedding itself should be paid by the bride’s parents. A number of important rituals for people in India cannot be carried out without men. Inequality of women affects the sex structure of the population. It turns out that the birth of a daughter in a family is unprofitable. As well as in China, a boy is considered to support parents when they get older.

As well as in China, in India, there takes place the traditional gender selection of children with the help of abortions, about one hundred million young men do not have a chance to marry because of the lack of women. Per statistics, about eight million female embryos were killed with the help of abortions. At the same time, Indian women traditionally prefer to marry men who have a higher social status. Therefore, wealthy, educated Indians do not feel the low number of women; however, poor men with a low level of education are often unable to find a wife. In a society where marriage is an integral part of man’s status, such situation does not allow men to meet the social standards. Therefore, the government adopted a chain of laws that support families, who have only daughters. The girls, in this case, are guaranteed with free education and scholarship.


The paper examined the social role of women in Asia (China, and India). Even though these countries have many differences in politics, religion, culture, etc., there takes place inequality between men and women. In China women are denied access to education, they are suffering from hunger and poverty, sexual and domestic violence, domestic and international conflicts. Women and girls are often sold as slaves and are exploited by international criminal groups. In India, there is a problem for women to choose between family and career. Nowadays there exists a limited number of successful women who have both a strong family and a successful career. Of course, in both countries there takes place a struggle for the improvement of the right of women: the national governments recognize the importance and value of women; there are more opportunities for self-development. Women obtain more security from violence; but despite this, the issue of gender inequality remains unresolved, and it is necessary to impose significant efforts to overcome the problem.

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