Human Rights

Is China’s pledge to fight sex-selective abortion another empty promise?

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Photo courtesy of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers

China’s official state news service, Xinhua, ran a story earlier this month about the Chinese government’s new pledge to crack down on sex-selective abortion.

The article laments problematic skewed gender ratios and blames the selective abortion of baby girls. It describes a campaign to “clampdown on illegal prenatal gender tests and sex-selective abortions.”

Though sex-selective abortion is a crime in China, the U.N. estimates that roughly 100 million girls are missing from the world due to abortion and infanticide. The coercive One Child Policy in China and dowry culture in India have led to a strong preference for sons in these countries. These factors have led to not only illegal but rampant sex-selective abortion, usually targeting females, and the killing, trafficking, and exploitation of girls and young women.

Reggie Littlejohn, president and founder of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and an international expert on China’s One Child Policy, is an American human rights attorney who has spent years working to stop forced abortion in China. Her organization not only helps Chinese families avoid forced abortion and other punishments by the Family Planning Police, but educates the international community about coercive family planning policies in China and the role they play in gendercide, sexual slavery, and other serious problems facing Chinese girls, women, and families.

Littlejohn is skeptical of China’s professed renewed commitment to ending sex-selective abortion.

“China periodically vows to crack down on gendercide,” said Littlejohn. “They announced similar campaigns to end sex-selective abortion in 2004 and 2011. These campaigns have been and will always remain ineffective because they do not address the root of the problem:  the One Child Policy. ”

The Xinhua article admits “the preference for sons, and family planning legislation have driven” sex-selective abortion, yet there is no mention of pursuing an end to the One Child Policy in order to combat sex-selective abortion.

Littlejohn goes on: “China is the only nation in the world that has a coercive low birth limit. It also has the worst gender ratio in the world. These two facts are connected.  No effort to combat gendercide in China will be successful until the One Child Policy is abolished.”

Littlejohn recently testified before the Congressional Executive Committee on China about the reasons she believes “China will never abandon the One Child Policy,” citing revenue-generating fees and fines, as well as a dissent-crushing “infrastructure of coercion” as major reasons why the Chinese Communist Party, despite serious demographic concerns, will continue its 35-year-old family planning policy.

“China periodically tweaks its One Child Policy,” Littlejohn explained in her testimony before Congress. “These minor modifications are routinely exaggerated.”

“The coercive enforcement of China’s one-child policy is its core,” Littlejohn added. “The problem with the one-child policy is not the number of children ‘allowed.’ Rather, it is the fact that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is telling women how many children they can have and then enforcing that limit through forced abortion and forced sterilization.”

“Regardless of the number of children allowed, women who get pregnant without permission will still be dragged out of their homes, strapped down to tables, and forced to abort babies that they want,” Littlejohn said.

Also, because the Family Planning Police uses a system of paid informants to keep an eye on the waistlines of women in their neighborhoods and villages and report possible illegal pregnancies, Littlejohn believes the One Child Policy is used to “break bonds of trust,” further discouraging dissent and making social movements for democracy less likely.

For these and other reasons, Littlejohn’s informed opinion is that the One Child Policy is here to stay.

A policy that places limits on the number of children many families can have, combined with a culture that prefers sons, inevitably leads to the targeted killing of baby girls, whether such targeting is illegal or not.

The world will know China is serious about repairing its skewed demographics if and only if it abandons its coercive family planning policies.

 

For information on how you can get involved helping Chinese women, children, and families avoid the severe consequences of the One Child Policy, see the Save A Girl Campaign.

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