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TitleWomen Judges in Contemporary China: Gender, Judging and Living
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Table of Contents
List of Figures
List of Tables
1 Introduction
	Women in Contemporary China
	Women and the Judiciary
	Research into Women in the Chinese Judiciary
	Aims of Study, Research Questions, and Organisation of the Book
2 Researching Judges in China
	The Issue of Access
	Research Methods and Data
		Interviewing Judges
	Further Methods and Data
	Making International Comparisons
	Limitations of This Study
	A Reflection on the Research Process
3 The Chinese Judiciary and Its Gendered Construction
	The Chinese Judicial System and Practice
		The Judicial System
			Judicial Practices
		Cultural Traditions and Social Practices, Legal Culture and the Political-Legal Reality
			Confucian Influences on Law and Legal Practices in China
			Social Practices and Legal Culture in China
			The Political and Legal Reality and Judicial Policy
		The Make-up of the Chinese Judiciary
	Women Judges and Their Work in Court
		Socio-Demographic Characteristics of Female Judges: The Interview Results
		Judges’ Work in Court: A Gendered Perception
			Judicial Work
			Extra-Curricular Activities
		Everyday Concerns of Women Judges in Court
4 Women in the Judiciary
	Entry into the Judiciary and Career Paths
		Getting into Office: Aspiration, Recruitment and Training
			Aspirations of Women Who Chose to Be Judges
			The Recruitment Process: Implications for Women
			Training for Judges
		Career Paths and Promotion
			Career Structure and Career Paths for Women Judges
			Female Judges’ Journey to the Top
	Women’s Position in the Judiciary
		Female Judges’ Roles and Positions in Court
		Gendered Problems of Women in the Judiciary
		Sense of Purpose and Job Satisfaction
5 Women and Judging
	Women’s Experiences in Judging
		The Issue of Gender Equality in Judicial Practices
		Women Judges as a Judicial Officer in Judging
		Women Judges as Women in Judicial Practices
	Judging Female Offenders
		Offences Prevalent Among Women: Female Judges’ Observations
		Women Judges’ Constructions of Female Criminality
		Women Judges’ Views on Sentencing Female Offenders
6 Female Judges and Living
	Women Judges’ Family Roles and the Conflict Between Work and Life
		Women Judges’ Family Roles
		Impact of Conflict Between Women’s Professional Roles and Family Responsibilities
		Women Judges’ Family Positions
	Experience of Young Mothers and the Impact of Motherhood
		Gendered Experience of Young Mothers
		Motherhood and Its Impact on Women Judges
	Women Judges’ Views on Several Private Matters
		Forming a Family
		Several Other Private Matters
	Gender Identity of Women Judges
7 Conclusion
Document Text Contents
Page 1

Palgrave Advances in Criminology and Criminal Justice in Asia



Page 2

Palgrave Advances in Criminology
and Criminal Justice in Asia

Series Editors
Bill Hebenton

Criminology & Criminal Justice
University of Manchester

Manchester, United Kingdom

Susyan Jou
School of Criminology

National Taipei University
Taipei, Taiwan

Lennon Y.C. Chang
School of Social Sciences

Monash University
Melbourne, Australia

Page 121

have personal preferences. In the German context, ‘the judiciary is a
closely knit network’ but women have little interest in building it
(Schultz, 2013: 151). This appears also to be the case in China. Those
who were good at practising guanxi through socialising with their peers
and superiors would have more opportunities to be noticed and included
in the networks. However, the reality is that compared with men, women
have less social capital from guanxi. Accordingly, women are disadvan-
taged in the selection system because of these hidden obstacles.
Outstanding female candidates may still be able to win the competi-

tion and reach mid-level judicial positions. The current promotion
process is partially open, with criteria that women can satisfy. However,
their journey to the top of the court hierarchy is much harder.

Female Judges’ Journey to the Top

Only a small percentage of women may get to the top leadership posi-
tions in the courts. According to the People’s Courts Post (2012),
approximately 1700 of 51,000 women judges (*3%) held presidential
posts. In the present study, 4 out of 13 sample courts had one woman in
the top-level leadership; only one was President, and she was the first
female president in the court. This is quite telling if we consider that the
vast majority of the participants believed that women were numerically
equal to men in the judiciary, and certainly it was the case in their own
divisions. It is even more telling if we look at the courts in
Northrhine-Westfalia, Germany, where one of three presidents of the
ordinary courts of appeal and two of three presidents of the labour court
of appeal were women (Schultz, 2013: 152). However, a like-for-like
comparison between the two jurisdictions is not possible.
Gender distribution in the top court leadership is uneven in China,

and the posts of heads of court are largely held by men. Why is it hard for
women to get to the upper echelons of judicial positions? Typical answers
from the participants were that ‘it’s the reality’, ‘it’s always like that’, and
‘it is like that everywhere, not just in the courts’. Clearly, women’s
underrepresentation in top positions is accepted as a norm and therefore
is not an issue in court. The interviews in this study showed that social

108 A. Shen

Page 122

and cultural barriers prevent women from breaking the glass ceiling.
Needless to say, women’s family roles are attributed to their exclusion
from the top leadership.
In the interviews, the male participants commonly stated that women

tended not to seek top positions in court—a claim that was not denied
by the majority of the women judges. This suggests that women do not
want to hold positions of power in the first place (Venkatesa, 2015).
However, what has been overlooked is the impact of women judges’
personal life circumstances.
In the French judiciary, the main and official explanation for scarcity

of women at the top is also that ‘women don’t apply’ (Boigeol, 2013:
130). In Britain, women are accused of ‘failing to put themselves for-
ward’ (Rackley, 2013: 57), to which Boigeol (2013: 131) pointed out
that the argument simply ignores the fact that ‘family tasks limit
women’s professional activities and their ambitions’ but ‘have little effect
on men’. Chinese women judges officially retire at the age of 55, which is
5 years earlier than men. When their time away from work on maternity
leave is also accounted for, women’s professional life span is much shorter
than men’s. According to the participants, in the public sector, women
are no longer considered for promotions to a leadership post after the age
of 45; however, opportunities are often preserved for their male col-
leagues at a similar age. Without institutional support, women’s lack of
interest in getting to the top, and career advancement in general, is their
quiet response to the reality.
Along with family duties, there are other, deeper reasons that explain

why fewer women than men hold the positions of power in court. One of
them is the deep-rooted gender role and gender position for women.
Research shows that, in China, the prejudiced views on women typically
include that ‘man is strong, woman is weak’ and that ‘men’s abilities are
naturally superior to women’s’ (Attané, 2012: 9). Here, Judge L-F-1
added that ‘people often think that men tend to be logical thinkers and
generally decisive, so they are ideal leaders’.
Among other participants, Judge L-M-1 commented, ‘Indeed,

women’s overall social status has improved, but it has not reached a level
that equals men’s. For example, women have limited engagement in

4 Women in the Judiciary 109

Page 241

Sentencing, 12, 147, 155, 156, 160,
162, 163, 166

Serving the people, 61, 73, 119, 144
Sexual freedom, 150
Sex work-related offences, 157, 160,

Shen & Winlow, 150, 157
Shen, A., 3, 23, 24, 26, 58, 157
Sheng-nü, 190. See also Leftover

Shepard, R., 214
Shi Liang, 94
Sida Liu, 9
Sisk, Heise & Morriss, 161
Smart, C., 161
Sommerlad, H., 36, 112, 153
Special Rules on the Labour

Protection of Female Employees
2012, 185

Statutory retirement age, 194
Steffensmeier & Hebert, 166
Steffensmeier, Kramer & Streifel, 166
Steinfeld, J., 150, 179

for preparatory judges, 101
of court on judge, 82

Switzerland, 36, 79, 183, 191, 198
Sykes, D. S., 147, 149, 166, 215
Syria, 5, 36, 115


Taobao, 193
Tate, C. N., 23, 35
Time-honoured traditions, 213
Time pressure, 78, 79, 118, 125

To, S., 67, 69, 190
Token status, 112, 168
Training Plan for Court Cadres in

China (1996-2000), 99
Two-tier appellate system, 52


Unique female traits, 114
United Kingdom (UK/Britain), 109,

115, 119, 138, 152, 165, 181,

United States (US), 3, 24, 36, 96,
113, 137, 138, 141, 156, 165,
166, 182, 215

Unobtrusive observation, 32, 33


Verification of evidence, 73, 74
Victim of male violence, 161, 166,

167. See also Violent offences
against abusers

Violent offences against abusers, 161


Wald, P., 210
Walklate, S., 161
Wang Guirong, 79, 80
WeChat, 33
Wei & Xin, 9, 141, 195
Women’s movements, 14, 212
Women’s Rights Protection Law

(WRPL), 97, 98
Women judges,

230 Index

Page 242

‘different’ or ‘other’ voice, 6, 208
contributions, 8, 116, 149, 156,

214, 215
copying strategy, 183, 198
gendered experience, 8, 111, 138,

142, 154, 168, 208
guilty feeling, 181
natural leniency, 208
nurturing value, 151
representation in judiciary, 96
window-dressing role, 111

Work-life balance, 76, 124, 182–184,
186, 194, 198, 210

Work pressure, 118, 120, 194
Work-related stress, 118, 120, 121,

125, 184
Work units (dan-wei), 192
Wu, Yi, 4
Wu, Zhonglian, 136


Xi, Jinping, 25, 61. See also President

Xinfang, 52, 80–82, 120, 125.
See also Petitions by letters and

Xinfang, 77. See also Petitions by
letters and visits (xin-fang)


Young, A. M., 82, 137


Zhou, Qiang, 11
Zweigert and Kötz, 57

Index 231

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