One Child Policy

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When one thinks of China it is common to conjure up images of rice fields and of the great wall, but also of crowded cities teeming with people and bicycles and cars. One rarely thinks of a nation populated mostly by men and boys, with a noticeable yet surreal absence of women. While this is a bit of an exaggeration, it has been noted over the past several decades that there is an alarmingly imbalanced sex-ratio. The policy has clearly contributed to the nation’s unnatural gender imbalance, as couples use legal and illegal means to ensure that their only child is a son. There are 117 men to each 100 women in China (Goodkind, 2004). In the 1979, when the one-child policy was enacted, the intention was not to create this imbalance, but to control the population of a rapidly growing nation. Unfortunately the one-child policy as it stands, illustrates a cultural favoritism toward males, and degradation of women to a lower social status in which they have little control of their reproductive rights.

In communist China, prior to the population boom, more people meant more manpower to create more economic prospects for the communist nation. The communist government condemned birth control and banned imports of contraceptives (Attane, 2002). Lack of birth control, and government encouragement led China into a time of vast population increase. Hundreds of millions of extra children were born in a baby boom that sent the birth rate soaring to 5.8 children per couple, a level considered unsustainable (Cai &ump; Lavely, 2003). With an increasingly growing population, food sources began to become depleted, and soon it became clear that the rate of reproduction needed to be decreased. To begin, government propaganda cropped up, pushing the slogan, "Late, Long and Few". Chinese couples were encouraged to have children later in life, have greater lengths of time between bearing children, and to have fewer children. Overall this movement was successful and China's population growth decreased from 1970 to 1976 (Fitzpatrick, 2009). Eventually this decrease slowed, and leveled off, prompting the government to take further action to slow the booming population. In 1979 a policy, known internationally as the one-child policy but more delicately called the “policy of birth planning”, was introduced requiring couples from China's ethnic majority to have only one child (Cai &ump; Lavely, 2003). While it seems somewhat reasonable for a government to encourage family planning, and to provide the population with access to birth control, it seems a bit out of line for them to ask a family to have only one child. The pressure of only having one child, in combination with a cultural favoritism toward males is what makes the one-child policy so gravely concerning. It is clear that the excess female infant mortality is directly attributable to the birth-control policy, which caused the pre-existing prevalence of son preference to escalate. In China, son preference is the product of ingrained social norms. Girls and women still occupy a lower social status in society (Zilberberg, 2007). The one-child policy requires authorization for each birth- children are required to be reported to receive documentation that allows them to be part of society- to attend school, to hold a job in adulthood, and to marry. Women are consistently harassed and abused as a result of the policy, in some cases resulting in forced abortion or forced sterilization, although this is supposedly limited to select provinces, and only if the pregnancy violates family planning regulations (U.S. Department of State, 2008). The one-child policy is meant to be a standardized way to implement the government’s birth limitation goals, but it is not consistently or always justly enforced. Although the policy primarily applies to China’s ethnic majority, and to those in the more heavily populated cities, all provinces have their own rules regarding the policy. The policy only grants married...
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