As China’s one-child policy nears its 31st anniversary, there is still no end in sight to these aggressive regulations. The policy, which is still strictly enforced by the Chinese government, began in 1979 and was scheduled to end September 25, 2010. Since the implementation of the policy, government crackdowns and social pressure to have a son have resulted in at least 50 million “missing” women. A traditional preference to have sons along with the one-child policy has led to sex-selection abortions and a major gender imbalance throughout the country. Unfortunately, many families feel they must resort to extreme measures in order to ensure a male heir and avoid breaking the one-child regulation. The growing gender gap poses the question- how have such a large number of women seemingly vanished while going unnoticed by the rest of the world?
What has been termed as “gendercide” continues to produce rippling effects throughout the country that threaten and devalue the lives of women and children. The conditions of the one-child policy have allowed human trafficking to thrive as unwanted girls and boys are traded as commodities. In July, an unprecedented raid by the CCP’s Ministry of Public Security unveiled a child trafficking ring that led to the suspension of over 300 suspects. At least 81 children were rescued, including 13 babies as young as 10 days to 4 months old. The Ministry reported the deployment of 2,600 police officers from 14 provinces in the July 20th raid. The incident has only touched the surface of a major black market in which children are bought and sold as future wives, slave laborers and sex workers. As successful as this raid may have been, the root causes of child trafficking in China are still very much in place.
In China and all over the world, trafficking has developed into a lucrative international network. The growth of trafficking in China is closely related to the government’s aggressive tactics to enforce the one-child policy. Families that violate the policy run the risk of facing harsh and impractical punishments. A family may face a fine of three to eight times their average income, loss of employment and social standing, and countless other forms of discrimination. In some instances, women are subject to forced abortions (as late term as 9 months) or sterilizations. There are even reports of infanticide, where babies are killed immediately after being born. The danger of such consequences places a huge burden on couples, whose family planning options are limited. Some families sell off their daughters while others may seek to purchase newborn sons. With reproductive rights diminishing, women and children become increasingly vulnerable to human trafficking rings.
Efforts by the Chinese government to target and weaken trafficking networks can be applauded. But unless the root problems are addressed, little progress can be made. In order to prevent the devaluation of women and the violation of basic reproductive rights, policy change is essential. Once steps are taken to end the one-child policy, forced abortion, sterilization, and trafficking will no longer be such a threat to families. While the government began to oppose sex-selective births several years ago, in a culture that has long placed high importance on bearing sons, China’s family planning policies have only exacerbated the growing gender gap. Now, almost a year after the CCP’s original deadline for the end one-child policy, the imbalance between men and women and young and old threatens the one thing the Chinese Communist Party values above all else- stability. Sadly, the CCP has decided that it will continue on its path of gross infringements on women’s rights, harassment of families, and the taking of life for years to come.
For decades, the U.S. has, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), provided financial backing to the China’s authoritarian regime for use on family planning and population control. While the UNFPA asserts that it does not manage, promote, or condone the use of coercive population control tactics such as forced abortion and forced sterilization, it is deliberately turning a blind eye to the harsh realities of China’s one-child policy. As evidenced by a 2002 report of the China UN Population Fund Independent Assessment Team, despite the show put on by Chinese officials, “the population programs of the PRC retain coercive elements in law and in practice.” As such, the report recommended that, “unless and until all forms of coercion in the PRC law and in practice are eliminated, no U.S. Government funds be allocated for population programs in the PRC.” For this reason, the Bush administration denied funding to UNFPA from 2002 through 2008, but the shortfall was covered instead by European governments. President Obama restored funding in 2009, and the U.S. has been complicit in the Chinese government’s coercive practices ever since. It is time for the U.S. to call upon UNFPA to stop overlooking the brutal implications of China’s family planning and reconsider whether the United Nations ought to be supporting what is arguably the worst abuse of reproductive rights in history.