Girls Prosper in China, If They're Born

By: Nikki W.

Interesting article on how girls in China are reaping the benefits of the one-child policy that is often the source of so much (deserved) criticism: “One-child policy a surprising boon for China girls,” Alexa Oleson, Associated Press, 8/14/11

In 1978, women made up only 24.2 percent of the student population at Chinese colleges and universities. By 2009, nearly half of China’s full-time undergraduates were women and 47 percent of graduate students were female, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

In India, by comparison, women make up 37.6 percent of those enrolled at institutes of higher education, according to government statistics.

Since 1979, China’s family planning rules have barred nearly all urban families from having a second child in a bid to stem population growth. With no male heir competing for resources, parents have spent more on their daughters’ education and well-being, a groundbreaking shift after centuries of discrimination.

“They’ve basically gotten everything that used to only go to the boys,” said Vanessa Fong, a Harvard University professor and expert on China’s family planning policy. ….

Crediting the one-child policy with improving the lives of women is jarring, given its history and how it’s harmed women in other ways. Facing pressure to stay under population quotas, overzealous family planning officials have resorted to forced sterilizations and late-term abortions, sometimes within weeks of delivery, although such practices are illegal.

The birth limits are also often criticized for encouraging sex-selective abortions in a son-favoring society. Chinese traditionally prefer boys because they carry on the family name and are considered better earners.

With the arrival of sonogram technology in the 1980’s, some families no longer merely hoped for a boy, they were able to engineer a male heir by terminating pregnancies when the fetus was a girl. …

Still, 43 million girls have “disappeared” in China due to gender-selective abortion as well as neglect and inadequate access to health care and nutrition, the United Nations estimated in a report last year.

Yin Yin Nwe, UNICEF’s representative to China, puts it bluntly: The one-child policy brings many benefits for girls “but they have to be born first.”

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