'Lost girls' threatens stability in China

Posted: 17 March 2004

China, the world's most populous nation, is facing a serious shortage of women. 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 crimes as rape, prostitution, the abduction of women and mercenary marriages. They also emphasise that the current trend of aborting girls can be physically and emotionally stressful for women.

Census statistics reveal that the predominance of male births is still growing. 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 Weixiong, vice chairman of the population, resources and environment committee of the Chinese People''s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) held medical technology partly to blame. Li said that since ultrasound screening of embryos was introduced to China ten years ago more girls had been aborted. Chinese family planning laws prohibit doctors from revealing the sonogram results to expectant parents, but Li said this regulation is often ignored.

A veteran women''s rights official was reported to have told a UN press conference that it is still common for baby girls to be killed in rural areas, especially because people can only have one child. As a result many baby girls are abandoned. Chinese orphanages are filled with baby girls and there is a well established adoption system with the west, American parents alone had adopted 33,637 Chinese baby girls by 2002.

Many believe the heart of the problem lies in the Confucian tradition of men's superiority over women, a belief that has survived decades of Communist propaganda. Many Chinese families believe that only male heirs can carry on the family lineage, and therefore it is essential to have a boy, if they can only have one child the preference is for a boy child.

Cheng Lanshu, deputy chairwoman of the Tianjin Women's Federation said that 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.

Source: United Press International 3/8/04 reported in Push Journal 09/Mar/04.

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