Lack of Women in China Threatens Long Term Stability
Spacedaily reports, “A serious shortage of women is looming in China, threatening family and social stability in the world’s most populous country. Official statistics show that in 2002, for every 100 newborn girls, there were 117 boys born. If this trend continues, China will have up to 40 million more men than women by 2020.
Demographic experts warn that the shortage of women in China will pose serious problems for the country if the trend is not halted. The surplus of men may trigger such sex-related crimes as rape, prostitution, the abduction of women and mercenary marriages. They also point to the harmful physical and emotional consequences on women of the current trend of aborting baby girls.
The statistics came as a shock at a session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) currently underway in Beijing. Li Weixiong, vice chairman of th! E population, resources and environment committee of the CPPCC, released the statistics in his report to the conference. Li said the predictions contained in the report were not exaggerated, but rather a serious problem demanding immediate action before it undermined social stability.
“The disproportionate numbers of males and females have become more and more serious, especially in rural areas,” Li said in his keynote speech at the conference. According to census statistics, the predominance of male births is growing worse. In 1982, the proportion of females to males was 100 to 108, close to the worldwide ratio of 100 to 104-107. The 1990 census showed a ratio of 100 to 111.3. In 2002, the ratio of boys to girls was 100 to 116.9.
Li said the availability of modern medical technology had made the situation worse. Since ultrasound screening of embryos was introduced to China about a decade ago, more females have been aborted. This practi! Ce is partly responsible for the growing disparity between boys and girls.
“Many parents just abort their baby once they find out they are expecting a girl,” a retired official from a women’s organization, who wished to remain anonymous, told United Press International. Chinese family planning laws prohibit doctors from revealing the sonogram results to expectant parents, but Li said this regulation is often ignored. Doctors who use the technology to check the baby’s health can often be talked into revealing its sex.
The veteran women’s rights official also said that it is still not rare for baby girls to be killed in rural areas. “Rural people still have a strong concept that they need to have a boy, since they can only have one child,” she said.
In many cases, if parents are not cruel enough to drown their baby girls, they abandon them. Orphanages in China are overcrowded with girls. The Western world has discover! Ed this fact, and Western parents flock to China to adopt these abandoned children. A well-established system is in place for foreigners to adopt Chinese babies. According to U.S. State Department statistics, American parents alone had adopted 33,637 Chinese baby girls by 2002.
Li said in his public speech that such backward practices remain strong in the countryside and in southern China. In the southern provinces of Hainan and Guangdong, the ratio of female to male births is as high as 100 to 130.
The long Confucian tradition of men’s superiority over women is at the heart of the problem, despite decades of communist propaganda aimed at changing this attitude. Many Chinese families believe that only male heirs can carry on the family lineage, and therefore it is essential to have a boy. The enforcement since the late 1970s of the one-child policy meant that families had to ensure that their one child would be a boy.
“The excess of men will also cause problems in terms of family structure and emotional issues,” Yuan Shuling, a spokeswoman for the Tianjin Women’s Federation, told UPI. “It poses more challenges for a society dealing with women’s issues.”
Cheng Lanshu, deputy chairwoman of the Tianjin Women’s Federation, believes it is essential to weed out the feudalistic concept of male preference. She said the central government is doing the right thing in promoting equality between the sexes as national policy.
In a first step toward tackling the problem, the government has designated 2004 as the year to promote sexual equality. But it is clear that more than a publicity campaign is needed if this social time bomb is to be defused.”