Seven women in Jiaxing, in east China's Zhejiang Province who had building applications rejected by the local government have won discrimination cases in court.
The women from different villages in Haining, all with rural residency, are married to men with urban residency, employed in nearby towns.
According to Chinese law, rural residents are able to build houses in certain allocated lots.
But the women were denied free housing, even after repeated applications to their neighborhood committees and local urban planning bureau.
The Haining People's Court and its superior municipality Jiaxing's intermediate court have ruled that the decision to reject their applications was against the law.
The committees and the bureau have been ordered to review the applications and make a decision in one month.
The case began back in 2003 when the women's villages were relocated.
Under special rules guaranteeing new housing, all families with a man as the main householder were allocated a piece of land to build their houses.
But the women's applications were either rejected immediately by their neighborhood committee or later at the local urban planning bureau, which argued there was no specific law about whether women who married men outside the village or with a urban residency, were allowed to build their own house in the village.
One of the women, Mi Yueping, submitted her application to the local urban planning bureau after her neighborhood committee refused to approve it. The bureau told her she had "to apply in the right process".
She then sued both the committee and the bureau in Haining People's Court, which initially rejected her case.
She then appealed to Jiaxing Intermediate People's Court, which handed down a verdict in her favor.
Like Mi, the other six women have sued their committees and the bureau.
Their cases were supported by Haining People's Court, with rulings also in their favor, though it is believed there are many rural women throughout the province who will not see justice prevail.
These women were not the only ones in their village to have applications rejected.
Li Maling, a National People's Congress deputy, said that despite an active participation in government and political affairs, sexual discrimination was still a big problem.
(China Daily March 27, 2007)