On social media Monday, after some state-backed news outlets highlighted the abortion line in the guidelines, some users wondered if other restrictions were in place. “Contraception can fail, so not finding a partner is the safest bet,” said a popular comment on the social media platform Weibo.
In general, many women are deeply suspicious of how the government will try to increase the country’s anemic birth rates, said Lu Pin, a Chinese feminist activist. Earlier this year, the government imposed a cooling off period for couples seeking divorce, which some saw as a way to force women to stay in marriage and have children.
“Chinese women are still forced by the state and used by the state,” Ms. Lu said in an interview in June, noting that some women were concerned about the potential limits of contraception, which is currently widely available.
These fears do not seem to have materialized yet. Monday’s report promised to improve women’s access to contraception, as well as to increase sex education.
Ms. Feng, the founder of the Beijing-based organization, pointed out that the only mention of abortion reduction was in a long report of more than 50,000 Chinese characters. She highlighted other parts of the report that she described as encouraging, such as commitments to tackle gender discrimination in the workplace, improve educational opportunities for women and promote sharing of household chores between men and women.
Yet she recognized the yawning gulf between official rhetoric and reality. State media recently attacked the perceived “feminization” of Chinese men, and social media platforms censored feminist activists. Although the report affirms the authorities’ position against sexual harassment, a judge this month ruled against the plaintiff in the Chinese Me Too movement’s most high-profile harassment case.
“Women’s development involves many responsible departments,” Ms. Feng said. “And the way these responsible departments implement their specific measures needs more attention and promotion.”
Joy Dong contributed research