The protection of women's and children's rights and interests (hereinafter referred to as "maternal and child protection") is a fundamental component of the cause of human rights worldwide and is closely linked to the degree of overall protection of human rights. Due to the objective existence of gender and age structure, once the protection of rights and interests of women and children is absent or insufficient, women and children will often become the most vulnerable group. Therefore, the protection of women and children is an ongoing task, which constitutes the touchstone and baseline of human rights in all countries and regions. The comparative analysis of the protection of the rights and interests of women and children in China and the United States should start from the overall situation of human rights in China and the United States, pay attention to the universality of human rights and the specificity of the protection of women and children, and ultimately achieve mutual understanding, mutual learning and overall progress, so as to provide useful reference for the cause of human rights, especially maternal and child protection, all over the world.
I. Comparison of basic rights and interests
U.S. children and minors continue to experience threats to their personal safety, family security and material standard of living. As the only country in the world that has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, child labor is prevalent in the United States. In 2019, U.S. law enforcement officials investigated 858 cases of child labor in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. About 500000 child laborers in the United States are engaged in agricultural labor, and many of them have been working since they were 8 years old, and it is common for them to work more than 10 hours a day. The risk of cancer from pesticides is three times higher for child laborers than for adults. The U.S. government has maintained a policy of "separation of children and parents" for immigrants during the epidemic. Of the more than 1.7 million immigrants detained in the United States in fiscal year 2021, up to 80 percent are held in private detention facilities, including 45,000 children. Most children are forcibly separated from their parents for long periods of time and placed in unsafe facilities that resemble "concentration camps". In 2021, the Boy Scouts of America reached a settlement totaling $850 million with groups representing tens of thousands of former Boy Scout members who had been sexually abused. As CNN reported in August 2018, more than 1,000 women and children have been sexually abused by more than 300 priests over the past few decades, and these are just the tip of the iceberg of the systematic sexual abuse of children within American society. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are approximately 10.5 million children in poverty in the United States, accounting for 14.4 percent of all children. 71 percent of these children in poverty are of color, and as many as 3.6 million children under the age of six are in poverty, with 1.6 million of them living in extreme poverty. Poverty and insecurity seriously harm the lives of America's children and their space to thrive.
In addition to suffering from social ills such as career bottlenecks and employment discrimination, American women are unable to guarantee even the most minimal personal safety. According to statistics, an average of 1 in 3 women in the United States has been victimized by domestic violence. A survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April 2018 reported that 27.3 percent of American women have experienced physical violence, sexual violence or stalking from an intimate partner at least once in their lives. According to the U.S. Institute on Domestic Violence, 85 percent of domestic violence victims in the United States are women, 5.3 million women are abused each year, and more than 1,000 women are killed by their spouses, cohabitants or boyfriends. Violence against women in prisons is a serious problem and the military is a major area of sexual harassment and abuse of women. Surveys show that more than 32 percent of women in the U.S. military say they have been sexually assaulted, and 80 percent say they have been sexually harassed.
China implements various human rights guarantees for women in the areas of employment security, family life, reproductive rights protection and anti-sexual harassment. From 2012 to 2018, 30 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) have established mechanisms to assess gender equality in regulations and policies, introducing the value of gender equality into all aspects of the formulation, implementation and supervision of regulations and policies, and comprehensively implementing gender equality in accordance with the law. At the same time, in response to the special needs of women, China has continued to strengthen the protection of women's health rights, popularize the national free preconception eugenic health checkup program, protect women's rights in marriage and family, and vigorously develop childcare institutions for children aged 0-3 years so as to provide support for women to balance work and family. Implementation of the "Law Against Domestic Violence". As of 2019, courts nationwide have issued a total of 5,749 personal safety protection orders; public security organs have participated in mediating and resolving more than 8.25 million family conflicts and disputes, and effectively prevented and stopped more than 6.17 million cases of domestic violence. In response to anti-sexual harassment, China has formulated the Guidebook on Promoting Gender Equality in the Workplace and Guidebook on Eliminating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, the establishment of sound institutional mechanisms related to gender equality by employers has been further promoted as well.
For the protection of children's rights and interests, China has been continuously strengthening the facilities and institutional guarantee for the protection of minors. Counties (municipalities and districts) where conditions are suitable generally rely on existing social welfare facilities to build county-level protection facilities for minors to provide temporary custodial care and family services for children. All children aged 0-6 raised by child welfare institutions and orphans in the social diaspora are included in the rehabilitation assistance system for disabled children. Implementing the project of "Fu Cai Yuan Meng-orphans' schooling project" and the project of "orphans' medical rehabilitation tomorrow" to effectively protect the rights of orphaned children to survival and development. Implementation of the nutrition improvement program for rural compulsory education students, covering all key counties in the country for poverty alleviation and development, benefiting nearly 38 million students, and the problem of growth retardation of rural children has been fundamentally improved. It has become a fundamental project for the protection of children's rights and interests in China by providing a foundation for children's health and growth.
Ⅱ. Comparison of Covid-19 prevention and control
The failure of the Covid-19 prevention and control has exposed the lack of governance capacity due to political polarization and the extreme injustice in health care in the United States. Women and children have suffered direct and indirect physical and psychological injuries during the epidemic, as evidenced by the rising rate of childhood illness in the United States; the rising rate of health care illness, especially among female health care workers; the lack of timely intervention and relief for families suffering from emotional trauma after the death of a family member; the high cost of health care has left many middle-class Americans and poor families bankrupt or even afraid to seek care, all of which have seriously harmed the basic rights and quality of life of American women and children. As of mid-March 2022, more than 80 million cases have been cumulatively diagnosed in the United States, with more than 12 million cases diagnosed in U.S. children. In addition to the direct threat of the epidemic, women also suffer from the challenges of unfair employment and lack of social security. Since February 2020, more than 2.3 million women have dropped out of the labor force in the United States. The United States remains the only industrialized country that does not have nationwide paid parental leave mandates, and the federal government does not provide funds for universal pre-school education. However, two-thirds of American families are two-earner households, and 41 percent of mothers are breadwinners. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women overall earn only 82 percent of what men earn, and African-American, Latina and Native American women earn much less. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States, said there has been a 51 percent increase in the number of girls attempting suicide in the U.S. in 2021 compared with the same period two years ago.
China's epidemic prevention and control has been strictly implementing the normalized prevention and control and dynamic clearing policies, making China the fastest to achieve normalcy in production and life during the new crown epidemic. Stable social order and sustained economic growth are in themselves the most basic and comprehensive support for the protection of women's and children's rights and interests. Not only has China not regressed in the cause of human rights, but it has also improved the right to life, dignity, development, and material and personal security of women and children as a whole in the process of precise poverty alleviation, regional balance, urban-rural balance, and improvement of the social security system.
Ⅲ. Comparison of public safety
The social security situation in the United States has deteriorated with high levels of violent crimes and women and minors becoming victims of mass gun violence. According to statistics released by the U.S. Small Arms Survey, Americans own 393 million of the word’s 857 million civilian firearms in the world, or about 46 percent. There are 120 guns for every 100 Americans, more than one per capita. There were 693 mass shootings in 2021, up 10.1% from 2020. More than 44,000 people were killed in the shootings, with a growing proportion of minors becoming victims in school shootings and street shootings. In 2021, 1229 teenagers aged 12 to 17 were killed and 3373 injured in shooting incidents in the US. It is becoming increasingly easy for minors to obtain firearms due to negligent storage by families with guns. According to statistics, there were 369 accidental shootings of children in the United States in 2020, significantly more than in the previous two years. In domestic and community shootings, many women, including pregnant women, are victims of domestic gun violence, child misuse of firearms, and community gang mix-ups.
China has a history of strict gun control. Since 2021, China has cracked 8,644 cases of gun explosions and arrested 8,338 criminal suspects. A total of 19,000 guns, 520,000 rounds of bullets, 12 tons of explosives and 54,000 detonators have been confiscated. Strict control over the inflow of firearms from outside China and the high detection rate of firearms explosion cases have led to a continuous decline in the incidence of shooting and violent crime in China, and the lives and health of women and children have been fully protected.
Ⅳ. Comparison of social equality
When the United States underwent the UNIVERSAL Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council in both 2010 and 2015, the U.S. government committed to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. To this day, however, the U.S. Congress has not ratified this core UN human rights convention. Gender discrimination is a serious problem in American society. Women in the United States have been subjected to long-term, systematic, extensive and institutional discrimination, and all kinds of open and hidden gender discrimination are shocking. Firstly, discrimination against women in employment and occupation is quite serious. In the United States, women's employment is limited, concentrated in fields such as clerical work and retail, and the proportion of women in high-prestige fields is much lower than that of men. In contrast to the increase in the number of science and technology workers in the United States, the number of women in science and technology is declining significantly, accounting for only one-fourth of all science and technology workers. Secondly, the unemployment rate of American women is significantly higher than that of men. According to the Employment report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. retail industry lost 54,300 jobs from October 2016 to October 2017, but the experiences of men and women were quite different: women lost more than 160,000 positions, while men gained 106000. Thirdly, there is discrimination against pregnant and lactating women in the American workplace. Pregnant women and new mothers face real employment discrimination. Many employers do not respect the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and often force pregnant women to leave their jobs. Fourthly, in career development, women cannot get the same development opportunities as men, and it is difficult to break the "ceiling" in career competition. Fifty percent of women working in science and technology in the United States said they have experienced gender discrimination at work; about 70 percent of female respondents said there were too few women in senior leadership positions in politics and business. Fifthly, the issue of unequal pay between men and women for the same work is prominent. According to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the pay gap between men and women has been remained at about 21 percent for years, during which the gap was 23 percent in 2007 and 19.5 percent in 2016. The gap hasn't narrowed much. Sixthly, the problem of poverty among women is serious. According to a report released by the United Nations Expert Group on December 11, 2015, the proportion of women living in poverty in the United States increased from 12.1% to 14.5% in the ten years from 2005 to 2015, and the figure is consistently higher than that of men.
China has made continuous progress in social equality. Based on the right to subsistence and development, China attaches great importance to the protection of women's rights to land, education and property, so as to comprehensively guarantee women's personal independence from the economic, social and political levels in accordance with the law. Since 2014, China has carried out the registration and certification of contracted land in rural areas, explicitly requiring rural women to record their contracted land management rights on the ownership certificates, enabling rural women to "have their names on the certificates and have the rights under their names." In terms of employment attainment, women accounted for 43.2 percent of the total number of employed people in 2019, up 0.3 percentage points from 2015. In terms of education, the illiteracy rate of women aged 15 and above dropped from 90 percent before the founding of the People's Republic of China to 7.3 percent in 2017, and the net primary school enrollment rate of girls has reached 99.9 percent, exactly the same as that of boys. The proportion of female students in ordinary colleges and universities has reached 52.5 percent. Female graduate students account for 48.4 percent of the total graduate students. In terms of political rights protection, the number of female officials in China’s Party and government organs increased from 422,000 in the early years of reform and opening-up to 1.906 million in 2017, accounting for 26.5 percent of the total number of cadres. In 2017, women accounted for 52.4 percent of newly recruited civil servants in central government organs and their directly affiliated institutions. Women accounted for 44 percent of newly recruited local civil servants. All this shows that China is ensuring equal protection of women's rights and interests in terms of economic foundation, social rights and political participation.
In 1993, the United Nations Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action points out: "the human rights of women and girls are an inalienable and integral part of universal human rights, and that the full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic and cultural life at the national, regional and international levels and the elimination of all forms of discrimination on the basis of sex are the primary objectives of the international community." The fifth of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. On the issue of human rights, no country is perfect. China is self-aware and will never be the "teacher" of other countries on human rights issues. However, the U.S. often pursues "double standards", ignoring its own problems and pretending to be a "defender of human rights". To compare the rights and interests of women and children in China and the United States, we need to start from the facts and objectively summarize the basic national conditions, development context and existing problems of the two countries; summarize the problems and lessons; exchange experience and learn from each other. Only in this way can we further advance the cause of human rights for all mankind.