For the past thirty seven years the Chinese government has carried out a strict one child policy. In 2015 the policy was phased out, and a two child policy was introduced. The national implementation of the two child policy could reform and improve family planning service management and promote the balanced development of the population. The Chinese government has controlled family planning for more than 40 years. This has kept rapid population growth in check, relieved the pressure on resources and the environment, and promoted the coordination of the population, economy, and society. It has also affected the character of the Chinese population as a whole.
To reduce gender inequalities and to prevent sex selective abortions, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) introduced a severe and long term punishment for identifying the gender of a fetus. Doctors were forbidden from disclosing fetal gender at risk of being sentenced or having their medical license withdrawn. Maybe these rules will be modified now that the one child policy has been stopped.
As a result of the one child policy, China has a serious and continuous gender imbalance. According to data from the NHFPC, since 1980, the number of male babies born in China has continued to increase. The ratio of males to females has increased from 108.47:100 in 1982 to 121.18:100 in 2004, to 120:100 in 2008. From 2010 to 2013 it has been sustained at 117:100.
Traditionally people in China are proud to say “I have a son or grandson”; traditionally people also say that they are “raising a son for old age” or “have a son to carry on the family name.” The preference for boys has forced people into trying to find out the sex of their baby. This is done illegally and leads to illegal sex selective abortions which brings a lot of profit.
The new two child policy, which allows parents with only one child to have another child, will make sex selective abortions more common in some areas, especially rural areas. Some illegal institutions have been doing the identification abroad through the internet, which serves profit chains. Fetus gender identification brings about an increasing risk of mortality for young girls, sex-selected abortion, and a poorer level of healthcare for female children, which further exacerbates the gender imbalance in China.
Competing interests: None declared.
Xiaoning Zhang, School of Nursing, Xuzhou Medical University, China and the School of Health Management and Education, Capital Medical University, Beijing.