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Go back to the sink, delegate advises women

By Clara Li, South China Morning Post, 9 March 2001

A proposal by a prominent member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference that married women should quit work and look after their husband and children has provoked heated public debate.

Vice-general secretary of the CPPCC at Jiangxi provincial level Wang Xiancai tabled a motion at a panel discussion earlier this week that said married women should be encouraged to stay at home and stick to domestic duties, the Guangdong-based South Metropolis News reported.

Mr Wang said this would help curb rising unemployment and provide a better quality of life for most families. He even suggested a change to the Marriage Law, stipulating that financial assets be jointly owned by the couple to protect the interests of women who return home.

Public debate on the issue has taken off since Mr Wang made the proposal. In a poll conducted by the newspaper after the article ran, hundreds of readers jammed the hotline. The poll found that more than half the women surveyed were against the idea of staying home, while most men thought the opposite.

If this is implemented, the accomplishments which we have worked so hard to achieve in gender equality over the past 40 years would be forfeited, said Wang Yujue, president of the Guangdong Painting Institute and also a CPPCC member. I am strongly against the idea.

Ms Wang is drafting a proposal with other members of the CPPCC to increase the retirement age of professional women from 55 to 60. She also wants protection for jobless women.

A retired civil servant, Yao Yujin, told of her mother who had never worked and raised seven children, the report said. She told me when I was little it was important to go out to work and make your own money, Ms Yao said. Otherwise one would be inevitably bullied by the man.

But Mr Wang said the existing system in which husbands and wives worked created many problems, especially with child-rearing. Mr Wang is a father of four whose wife is a university professor.

One of my sons was sent to nursery shortly after he was a month old, he said. I wish my wife could have stayed home to look after the children. But the reality in the '50 and '60s did not allow that. This has been one of my deepest regrets, he said.

Mr Wang proposed that the husband's salary be increased to 1.5 times his current wage - or his salary plus half his wife's remuneration - if she returned home.

Zhu Tianhui, also a CPPCC member and president of the Medical Institute of Nankai University in Tianjin, supports Mr Wang's proposal. Ms Zhu, a mother, said it was important for children to receive their mother's love.

Some women feel that their contribution to society will be bigger if they stay home with the children, she said. Women should be given choices.