Preference for boys in china


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Preference for boys in china

  1. 1. Global Top > China > 01Population...PREFERENCE FOR BOYS IN CHINAPREFERENCE FOR BOYS IN CHINAChina has one of the greatest gender disparities among newborns of any country inthe world, and this is all the more alarming because China is such a populous nation. In2005, 118 boys were born for every 100 girls, up from 110 boys per 100 girls in 2000and 112 in 1990. One Chinese expert told the Times of London the rate seem to havepeaked to 120.4 at the end of 2006. The sex ratio is expected to remain skewed ataround 119 boys for every 100 girls through the 2030s. Worldwide, 103 to 107 boysare born for every 100 girls.In some rural areas there are only 67 girls for every 100 boys. Kindergarten classes inplaces where the problem is particularly bad have twenty-some boys and maybe threeor four girls. Some primary school has enough boys to fill five classes but only enoughgirls for two.A study by the British Medical journal Lancet said that selective abortions had leftChina with 32 million more boys than girls. A UNICEF study counted 29 million "missingfemales" in China. The number of “missing girls” generated in one year increased fromaround 500,000 in 1990 to 900,000 in 2000. So many baby girls are “missing” thatChinese authorities have delayed the release of census data because it showed thesituation getting worse rather than better.In the old days wealthy men with wives who gave birth only to daughters often tookconcubines to have sons. If one of the concubines produced a son the man oftendumped the concubine and give the son to his wife to raise.Good Websites and Sources: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Family Planning ; New England Journal of Medicine article ; One Child Too Many Boys and Military Aggression ; ChristianScience Monitor ; Links in this Website: POPULATION ; ONE-CHILD POLICY INCHINA ; BIRTH CONTROL INCHINA ; THE BRIDE SHORTAGE in China with High Ratios of Boys to GirlsIn some places, particularly in the southeastern and central Chinese provinces the boyto girl ratios are much higher than the national average. In some places in ruralGuangxi province, where boys are prized on farms, the numbers approach 144 boys for100 girls. In some villages more than 75 percent of all children born are boys. In thecity of Lianyungang in Jiangsu Province, 163.5 boys are born for every 100 girls. Insome rural counties in Shaanxi Province newborn boys outnumber girls 2 to 1. QishanCountry recorded a ratio of 2.53 to 1. Some villages here had not had a baby girl bornas a second child for more than three years.Hainan Island has the highest newborn-born-to-girl ratio of any Chinese province with135.7 boys to 100 girls. About 70 percent if the island‟s residents live in rural areas.
  2. 2. Many belong to the Li and Miao minority. A 29-year-old farmer who has a son and adaughter told the Strait Times, “If you fail to bear a son, people will laugh at you atyou. People will say things like, „You „ll end up in an old folks‟ home in your old age, asyou have no son to take care of you.” A 45-year-old Li woman who gave birth to threedaughters said, “I was so sad when my third daughter was born. I was worried no onewould take care of my wife and me when we grew old.”Families on Hainan with girls play hide and seek with authorities to keep their childrensecret so they can have more. One woman with a daughter, who was told that shecould not have any more children if her second child was a girl, said “I will try againuntil I get a son.” Already the island has it share of bachelor villages. In Hainan bysome estimated 9 out 10 aborted foetus are girls. In the old days the expression “adaughter had given to seas” was a euphemism for female infanticide, a customs that isnow rare.Reasons for Preference for Boys in ChinaBoys are regarded as important because they look after property; inherit land; havemore opportunities to get ahead in life than daughters; care for parents when they getold; and perform important ceremonial duties when the parents die. They care forparents spirits in the afterlife so their spirits do not wander the earth as hungry ghosts.Having boys is regarded as kind of pension system. In recent years pressures to havesons have gotten stronger rather weaker as the Chinese “iron rice bowl” welfare andpension system has been dismantled and replaced with survival of the fittest capitalism.In much of China, there is no universal, government-sponsored social securityanymore. Many rural Chinese have no pensions. One peasant farmer in southeast Chinatold the New York Times, “People around here depend on their sons to provide for themin old age because you can‟t rely on anyone else.”The preference for boys is tied up in the Confucian belief that male heirs arenecessary to carry on the family name and take care of the family spirits. A Chinesefamily worries that if there is no son no one will look after them and keep themcompany in the afterlife. Confucius once said, "there are three ways of being disloyal toyour ancestors. Not carrying on the family name is the worse."Celebrations are held for the birth of a son. One peasant woman told AP, her husbandcelebrating by getting drunk and buying her candy. “That was like New Year‟s Eve,” shesaid.Girls and the Reasons for Preference for BoysGirls, on the other hand, have to give away any property they possess to theirhusband and are not supposed to take care of their parents in old age. A daughter‟sresponsibility to her family ends when she gets married. She moves in with herhusband, often in another village or town, and become part of her husbands family andhelps care for them. In China there is an expression, "Daughters are like water thatsplashes out of the family and cannot be gotten back after marriage."The Communists raised the status of women in China, making it no longer such a badthing to have daughters. But since the one-child policy and economic reforms were
  3. 3. launched in the 1970s, Confucian values have returned, making it once againfashionable not to have girls.One farmer told the New York Times, “If you have a son he can go out and makemoney, then the whole family will be secure. If your daughter gets rich that‟s adifferent thing altogether, because the money goes to her husband‟s family.”While parents openly celebrate when they have boys they often look disappointedwhen they have girls. Newborn girls are sometimes given names like Pandi ("expectinga boy"), Yanan ("second to a boy") in hopes the next child will be a boy. Some sixmillion women bear the names Lai-di ("call for a brother") and Ziao-di ("bring abrother").This contrasts with sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, where sonsand daughters both care for aging parents—and sex ratios are fairly normal. In SouthKorea, the ratio of boys to girls peaked in 1990 at 119 to 100 and declined to 110 to100 in 2000. Demographers attribute the change to a weakening of the patriarchalfamily as people have become more urbanized, Westernized and independent. Thesechanges havent occurred in China, which remains largely agrarian.The trend is changing in Chinese urban areas, where there is now a slight preferencefor girls, under the belief they are more likely to care for their aging parents.Family planning poster that says abandoning girls is a crimeGirls, Preference for Boys and the One Child PolicyDemographers have found that the boy-to-girl ratio increases the more strictly theone-child policy is enforced. One study of three villages in Shaanxi found that 114 boysto 100 girls were born in 1979 to 1983 when the "one child" policy was introduced;then dropped to 98 to 100 during a lenient period from 1984 to 1987; and soared to145 to 100 in 1988 to 1993 when the policy was strictly enforced.Couples that have a son the first time around count themselves fortunate. If theyhave a daughter, they often want to try again for a son. It is not unusual for woman tomake three or four attempts to have a boy, keeping the first girl, giving the second girlaway and having the third aborted after discovering she is female with an ultrasoundtest.Some women feel overwhelmed by the pressure to have boys. A mother of a daughterwho gave birth to a second daughter told the New York Times, “I felt I couldn‟t hold myhead walking in the village.” Undesired baby girls, who are born, often end up inorphanages, or being put up for adoption.” Some in the same circumstancescontemplate suicide.A booming economy has resulted in more not less sex selections as families havemore money to spend on things like ultrasound tests to improve their chances of havinga boy.Poor Treatment of Girls in China
  4. 4. The low number of girls is attributed to poor nutrition, inadequate medical care,desertion and infanticide. One Chinese woman told the New York Times, "My parentswere disappointed in my gender. They wished I were a boy. I had to work very hard tocompete with my brothers." Girls are sometimes not counted by census takers becausethey are hidden by their families.Mortality rates are considerably higher for girls than for boys. Girls are 12 percentmore likely to die before the age of five than boys. In the countryside the mortality ratefor infant girls one year or younger is 27 percent higher for girls than for boys. AChinese demographer told the Washington Post, "If the son is sick, families in thecountryside will get a doctor. If the girl is sick, they won‟t.”Many girls go hungry while food is directed to their brothers. A women with a youngerbrother told the Los Angeles Times, “My sister and I knew that all the good food wentto him—when he was done, then we could eat.”Abandoned ChildrenIn the 1990s it was relatively common for parents with unwanted children to abandonthem. Orphanages were often overwhelmed by requests and didn‟t have enough staffand formula to take care of all the children that were sent their way.Because it was illegal to abandon children even at orphanages, babies were often leftin cardboard boxes or bamboo baskets near orphanages and firecrackers was set off tolet staff members at orphanages know where the babies were. One woman who workedat an orphanage at that time told the Los Angeles Times, “We‟d find them all over.They‟d be wrapped in rags, filthy...Sometimes they‟d have ant all over their facebecause babies have a sweet smell and ants like them.”Infanticide and Girls in ChinaIn rural China, it reportedly is not that unusual to see a dead baby left in a garbageheap or abandoned by the side of the road or in a train station. Some couples regardthe punishments for having a child to be so severe that they feel it makes more senseto abandon unwanted children than raise them.Some demographers say that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of infanticideshave occurred in China in the last two decades. Many of the victims are baby girls. Thesimple fact that second child born in a Chinese family is often a boy is proof enoughthat female infanticide is at least a possibility. Some women go into hiding when theyare pregnant so that if they give birth to a daughter they can get away with murderingit without anybody knowing about it.There are many stories about parents paying old ladies to murder their babydaughters: drowning them in toilets, smothering them with pillows or strangling them,and then burying them in their backyard. Many baby girls are simply neglected and diefrom causes related to poor nutrition or being poorly taken care of when sick.The Chinese government has admitted that the practice of female infanticide is aconcern and the Peoples Daily has even labeled it a "grave problem." The paper hasreported that the ratio of males to females under the age of five in one rural area of
  5. 5. Hebei province was five to one and has run stories about of men asking for divorcesfrom wives who only gave birth to females.Infanticide has a long history in China. It was practiced often in the past, resulting inhigh male-to-female ratios and was not stamped out until the Communists came topower in 1949. In the mid-19th century after a large wave of infanticide so many menacross China were unable to find wives they organized into armed bands. The ensuingNien Rebellion took the imperial government in Beijing more than a decade to put downand played a role in weakening the Qing dynasty and ultimately toppling it.Some villagers didn‟t like accusation that they abandoned their girls. One villager inGuizhou Province told the Los Angeles Times, “People around here don‟t dump theirkids...Boy or girl, they‟re our flesh and blood .”Infanticide is not practiced only in China. It is common in India and occurs from timeamong American teenagers with unwanted children. During of period of social unrestand food shortages in the 1930s, anthropologists found that every mother in an AyoreoIndian village committed infanticide at least once.Ultrasound and Missing Girls in ChinaPortable Chineseultrasound scanner Millions of Chinese women have had abortions after ultrasoundtests showed they were carrying females. By some estimates sex-selective abortionsperformed after ultrasound test account for a third and maybe half of the “missinggirls.” By one count 97 percent of all aborted babies are girls.In villages with easy access to ultrasound machines it is not unusual to find that 75percent of the children born there are boys. In one village in Guangxi 19 of the 24children born one year after ultrasound was introduced were boys. Before ultrasoundthe ratios of boys to girls was near 1 to 1. A study in a county in Guangdong provincefound that couples with a girl already elected to get an abortion 92 percent of the timeif they found the wife was carrying another girl.One villager told the New York Times, “If you‟re rich and you want a big family, youcan keep having babies until you get a boy. But if you can‟t pay the fine, or don‟t wantall the burdens of a large family, then you get the test.”Couples pay as little $4 for an ultrasound test. Illegal abortions are readily availablefor those who do not want a girl, often the same day an ultrasound test is taken forbetween $15 and $120 depending on the complexity of the procedure and the “gift”demanded by health care workers.Ultrasound was introduced in the mid-1980s. China now mass produces its ownultrasound machines, which sell for $2,000 a piece. Abortions after ultrasound testsoccur in the second or even third trimester of pregnancy. This is because sexdetermination by ultrasound is usually possible in the forth, fifth and sixth months ofpregnancy.Test used to determine gender are banned but widely carried out, mostly atunderground clinics in rural areas. According to report by the Chinese Academy ofSocial Sciences in 2009, “Sex-specific abortions remained extremely common
  6. 6. place,especially in rural areas...The problem is more serious in rural areas due to thelack of a social security system. Ageing farmers have to rely on their offspring.”Effort to Increase the Number of Girls in ChinaThe Chinese government has vowed to fix the gender imbalance. It outlawed sex-selective abortions and the use of ultrasound to screen the sex of unborn children in1997. In January 2005, the laws restricting sex-selective abortion were tightened; thepractice was officially banned and made part of the criminal code. Thus far thecampaign has not been very successful. Significantly more boys continue to be born.Many doctors, undeterred by the threat of long prison sentence, perform the tests tosupplement their monthly income which is often as low as $50 a month. In August2007, the Chinese government proposed making the laws tougher on sex-selectiveabortion that would dish out harsher punishments to doctors who performed them.In some places, the Chinese government gives special pensions to couples with twodaughters and fruit trees to couples with one daughter (the fruit is supposed to providea source of income in old age). The aim of the policy is to reduce incentives for havingboys as a social security measure. The government also allows girls with no brothers togo to school for free while parents with sons have to pay $7.50 a semester. In otherplaces parents with daughters and no sons are given access to the best jobs andofficials with jurisdiction over areas with significantly more boys than girls are passedover for promotions.These days it is becoming increasingly more desirable to have girls. In many cases itis easier for young women to get jobs than young men and daughters are consideredmore loyal and likely to take care of their parents in old age than sons. One commercialon television shows a mother complaining she was neglected by her three sons whileher dutiful daughter took good care of her. In the countryside villages are filled withslogans like “A girl is worth as much as a boy,” “Having a daughter is as good as havinga son,” and “Firmly uphold equal rights for girls and boys.”Image Sources: 1) Shanghai List; 2) Landberger com; 3) University of Washington; 4)Priceline websiteText Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London,National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely PlanetGuides, Compton‟s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.Page Top© 2008 Jeffrey HaysLast updated April 2010Questions or comments, e-mail | About This Project | Support andDonations