Status check: Are Chinese women better off than Indian?

Chinese Women

We humans have a tendency of always comparing ourselves on grounds of material existence with the people around us. I’ve learnt this from the elders. Though they are not our absolutes, a relative comparison to the people we know gives us a sense of existence, something we all crave for deep within. Taking the same phenomenon on a more macro scale, I decided to draw parallels between India and China, and the position of women in the two countries. It is also important to know what we have in common with our sisters in the neighborhood, and to what extent. And some of the results were surprising. Take a read:


Women in Chinese societies are definitely better educated than women in Indian societies. Whilst the literacy level of women in our country lingers at 61%, Chinese female literacy rates are 94%, behind men by 4%. In India, the gap is much wider, where men’s rate of literacy is 20% higher. Chinese rates of enrolment at school level are gender balanced, unlike India where there is large ground to be covered. In fact, enrolment of women in higher education is 4% higher than that of men (WEF Gender gap report)

Chinese girls studying

Chinese beat India at literacy levels among the females ( Picture Credit: telegraph.uk)

Also read: Thirteen and just married: China’s teen brides

Systems of dowry

Dowry is common in both country, though in China, its in the form of bride price, ie a sum of money is offered to the girl’s family in exchange of the bride. However, that doesn’t change the fact that women are subjugated at both places where they are treated like property. While India banned the dowry system in 1961 (Dowry Prohibition Act), the ban was not imposed in China until 1980, through the renewed marriage law that also banned bigamy and polygamy.

Domestic Violence

While on one hand, India enacted its Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence in 2005 (Kashmir followed suit in 2010), as per reports from NewsChina,China’s first anti-domestic violence law came into effect only on March 1, 2016 (although it is more all-encompassing than the Indian law, as it includes violence against children and other family members as well).

Chinese weddings also have a system of dowry

Systems of dowry: Not only an Indian ritual (Picture Courtesy: wedingbells.sg)


Also read Unmarried women over 27 are called ‘Leftover Women’ in China 

Rural Women

In her report on Women Farmers in China’s Commercial Agrarian Economy, Ritu Agarwal presents a detailed analysis of the Chinese reform of commercialisation of agriculture which has helped many women claim their rightful space in society and emerge and entrepreneurs. Not only that, they have also been able to claim their rights on land as well. Read our report on women farmers in rural India here.

Also read: Chinatan: Things Every Woman Will Love About China 

Gender Gap in general

As per the WEF gender gap report, China is at the 91st position, while India’s rank is 108. Neither of us have improved. In 2013, China ranked 69 and India 101. Over the years our position has only degraded. China’s labor force participation, though imbalanced, is much better than men.

Women’s awareness of self and their rights, for most parts of the world, came after their economies were freed and markets opened up. This is because it is only in these times, that women’s liberation became of economic interest to the man. While this happened in India in the 1990s, China opened up its markets well early in 1978.

So does seem like our neighbour has a lot of work to do for women’s rights, much like we do!

Feature Image Credit: businessinsider.com