SHANGHAI – A Chinese single mother has reported the government for failing to pay her the maternity pay she is due.
Zou Xiaoqi is not the only single mother in the Asian country to have been ignored by the state as a result of her status.
“When I saw myself in this situation and I began to have contact with other women with the same problems, I felt a great injustice and I was able to do it (to file a report),” the 43-year-old woman, who has a two and a half-year-old son, told Efe.
In 2017, Zou reported the government of Shanghai (one of the most advanced and open cities in the country) after she was denied her maternity benefit for not being married.
“In traditional Chinese culture, being a single mother is not something that is accepted.
“As I had already decided to carry out my pregnancy, I needed to know more about the policies related to this topic and it was during the documentation process that I understood I was going to have many obstacles,” she explained.
Although Zou had been rigorous about paying her social security payments at the multinational where she worked, to apply for maternity pay she needed a marriage certificate and a family planning permit.
According to the judge’s report that ruled on her case, only women who give birth according to state family planning regulations are entitled to maternity benefits.
In China, maternity rights are managed by the government.
So although employers make social security contributions to include maternity payments, it is the social security office of each province that issues maternity benefits.
Zou lost her trial and filed an appeal at the Shanghai High People’s Court, which is looking at her case.
But Zou is not hopeful that it will have a positive outcome.
“The possibility of winning is small.
“Although there are many women in my situation nobody complains in China. A lot of money, time and energy are required.
“You also have to understand the issue and many women do not know they can report it,” Zou adds.
But Zou has not filed her complaint for the money. She enjoys a generous salary and does not need the 50,000 yuan (some $7,100) she is owed.
If she has put so much effort and money into her court case it is to draw attention to the fact that many single mothers suffer from this injustice and that, despite being many, they continue to be socially invisible and suffer from persistent inequalities.
“I want people to think more about the subject.
“I have realized that, if you have the right economic conditions, being a single mother can be a very good option for some people.
“Although in China you cannot go, for example, to a sperm donor to be a single mother since it is prohibited by law.”
Since waiting for the legal system to change could take a very long time Zou says that it would be more realistic for there to be a change in culture so people realize that to have children, getting married shouldn’t be part and parcel of the adventure.
Zou shares her experiences and problems with other mothers through messages in Wechat groups (similar to WhatsApp).
It was on this platform that she learned that many women face this and many other problems when it comes to being single mothers.
For example, she also experienced problems when she went to register the birth of her son for his ID card, because, although legally her son is entitled to one, many officials still do not understand that this is the case.
The community of single mothers, which includes divorcees, has allowed Zou to realize that there are also many problems in the marriage system.
“It does not protect women at all.
“I am really glad that I never married,” Zou concluded.