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Meet China's 'Leftover Women'

Milene Larsson

Milene Larsson

During Mao's reign, ambitious women in China were idolized. Today, unmarried women are denounced as "leftovers" and women's rights activists are being detained by the government.

Since the socialist revolution, the rights of Chinese women have been written into the country's constitution. Under Mao, unprecedented numbers of women joined the workforce and they were celebrated as "iron girls."

But now, China is home to a fifth of the world's women whose status as equals is dwindling. Domestic violence rates in the country have soared, martial rape is not considered a crime, those who dare to call themselves feminist activists are being detained by the government, and unmarried women older than 27 are commonly referred to as "leftover women."

To find out what lies behind the drastic shift in women's social status in China, we track down feminist scholar and "iron girl" Wang Zheng and spend a day with one of China's so-called leftover women. We also explore the extremes of China's wedding industry and its defectors before meeting Wei Tingting, one of the five women's rights activists detained for trying to start a campaign against sexual harassment on public transportation.