China may have reformed its notorious one-child policy to allow two children per family, but the damage from years of enforcing this widely criticized law has been monumental. Not only is there a vast gender imbalance in Chinese society, but experts believe that the population-control measure has caused a spike in levels of elderly suicide and even sex trafficking.
For 35 years, the Chinese government used abortion, sterilization and steep fines to control the reproductive choices of its population. Parents who experienced “unplanned” childbirths would be slapped with fines between five and 10 times their annual disposable income.
“If the couple is too poor to pay, we’ll take things from their house, but only in a few cases,” one former village leader, Huang Denggao, told the New York Post.
In 2010, a family-planning official reportedly imposed a fine of some 5 million yuan—or over $800,000—on a violator. When the person protested the extortionate sum, local media reported that the official responded, “You are just a piece of meat on the chopping block.”
“There are an estimated 37 million more males living in China than females,”president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, Reggie Littlejohn, told Catholic News Agency. “What that has done is it has created a situation in China in which there is sex-trafficking within China and the surrounding countries as well, where women and girls become forced brides or prostitutes because of the lack of women in China.”
Littlejohn said she established her organization in response to the Chinese epidemic of “forced abortion, forced sterilization, sex-selective abortion of baby girls under the one-child policy.” The pro-life advocate is now seeking to address the unanticipated consequences of the population control law.
“Right now the problem in China is not that they have too many people,” she explained. “It is that they have too few young people to support their rapidly aging population and, even under the two-child policy, they are not getting the baby boom that they need to help with that situation or to help with the fact that their labor force is now declining.”
Subsequently, the rates of suicide amongst the elderly are increasing dramatically.
“There is a steep rise in senior suicide in China,” Littlejohn told CNA. “Historically, elderly people depended on having a large family that will support them in their old age and now a lot of them don’t have anyone to support them and now they are killing themselves in good numbers.”
The American journal, Aging and Disease, reports that the suicide rate for those in the over-65 age group is four to five times higher than the general population.
In addition to this, years of gender imbalance has put women at risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation.
“Traditional patriarchal structures reinforce gender inequality, especially in rural areas where women are often times not afforded the same opportunities as men and are forced to submit to male authority,” wrote Madeline Fetterly at the Diplomat. “This inequality leaves women increasingly marginalized and vulnerable to trafficking. In the last several decades, sex trafficking has been exacerbated even further by the one-child policy.”
As Littlejohn points out, the 2015 introduction of the two-child policy does not signal the end of population control in China, nor does it mean the end of the brutal tactics employed by the government to limit the number of babies being born.
“[The] two-child policy is not an abandonment of coercive population control in China,” Littlejohn said. “Single mothers are still subject to forced abortion and third children are still subject to forced abortion.”
The vast majority of babies born in China are boys, due to a historical cultural preference. Many pregnant women carrying girls are pressured to abort their children. With her organization, Littlejohn seeks out these women, and offers them financial support if they choose to keep their little girls.
“Please don’t abort or abandon your baby because she is a girl. She is a precious daughter,” Littlejohn’s organization tells the women. “Girls are as good as boys. We will give you a monthly stipend for a year to empower you to keep your daughter.”
(H/T: Catholic News Agency)