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Clarity sought on women's right to contract land

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-04 07:10

In a move to ensure women's rights, Chinese lawmakers pushed for clarity on Friday regarding rural land contracts.

Although the current rural land contract law says all members of a rural community are entitled to contract a piece of land jointly owned by the community, it does not include a clear definition of who is qualified to be a member - an omission that affects rural women, said Dong Zhongyuan, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, during a panel discussion.

In practice, the question is left to local laws, regulations, policies and village customs.

Long Chaoyun, another committee member, said at the same session that the vague definition leaves women at a disadvantage.

In some cases, daughters are considered members of a household and have the right to contract the land, but daughters-in-law are not; while in the other cases the situation is reversed.

"In many cases, when daughters get married they are excluded from their parents' household and have the contracted land withdrawn, and no land is allotted to them in the household they've married into," Long said. "The law should define it, and any customs and practices that are against the law should be corrected."

Dong expressed agreement with Long that the draft revision should not dodge the issue since existing laws related to rural land failed to address it.

Noting that it might be difficult to impose a single standard on diverse rural communities, Yan Junqi, another committee member, suggested taking more time to do research and work out a solution.

The focus of the draft revision, which was submitted for first reading, was to introduce new concepts related to rural land rights.

Since the country adopted its household responsibility system in the early 1980s, property rights related to rural land have been divided into two layers: an ownership right that belongs collectively to a rural community, normally a village; and a use right, which is held by an individual household that contracts a piece of land from the village.

The draft revision further separates the use right into a "contract right" and a "management right".

Under the bill, farmers would be able to retain their contract rights over allotted land and only transfer the management right if they choose to lease the land to others, mortgage it to banks or invest it in a cooperative in exchange for shares.

"The bill caters well to the urgent needs and interests of rural residents," said Xu Aihua, an NPC deputy and chief of a chicken farm cooperative in Zhejiang province. "Clarifying land management rights will help farmers put contracted land to better use and boost the rural economy."

Xu said it was important to properly register both contract and management rights.

The bill removes an article forcing users to end their contracts and return land to the village when they migrate to cities and change their household registrations, or hukou.

"Migrant workers welcome this act and care most about the consistency of rural land contracts," said Fang Xin, a committee member. "Although they no longer farm at home, they feel more secure holding the land contracts. For many rural people, land is the root of their life."

Xinhua

(China Daily 11/04/2017 page4)

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