Before the 20th century, the Chinese society considered women and men as two entirely different entities. Daoism, a Chinese mystical philosophy, considers yin (women) and yang (men) as two equal qualities. Despite this, the Chinese still believed that females should play second fiddle to their male counterparts. To put this into context, women were mandated to be submissive to men. Also, they were barred from assuming roles designated to males such as military, governmental and leadership roles.
The few women who were in the limelight at the time, such as Liang Hongyu, a general in the Song dynasty and Hua Mulan, a legendary fighter, were supportive of the maintenance of status quo rather than advocating for gender equality. This was an indicator of how dire the situation was in Chia during this period. This trend, however, would change after the Communist Revolution. The government approved the formation of several feminist activist groups.
In the 1970s through to the 80s, these groups started pressuring the government by claiming that it was reluctant to act on issues related to women rights. The most significant breakthrough for the Chinese feminists came in 2001, as the country amended its marriage law. This meant that women were allowed to divorce their partners on grounds of domestic abuse. Four years later, China drafted new regulations on sexual harassment against women. In 2006, the ‘Shanghai supplement’ was adopted, further defining acts that are considered as sexual harassment.