Small victories (maybe): China finally ends its abuse-fraught one-child policy

Friday, October 30, 2015

I suppose we should celebrate victories when we can, which is what I did yesterday when the news that China had officially ended its one-child policy hit my various social media feeds. Whether or not it is really a victory remains to be seen, as it is pretty clear that the Communist Party has buckled to concerns over its aging population (and the inability of its social security programs to support it) and gender imbalance, rather than a sudden concern for the rights of its citizens. Nonetheless, it will do nothing to erase the infamous human rights abuses perpetuated under the policy for nearly four decades, not to mention all of the children who were born in "violation" of it who now do not have papers, which means no access to social services.

On Thursday, China’s Communist Party announced it was abandoning its unpopular one-child policy after 35 years. But the scars still run deep.

In 2012 alone, official statistics show 6.7 million women in China were forced to have abortions under the one-child policy. Rates in previous decades often topped 10 million a year. As a result, experts say, suicide rates among women in China are significantly higher than among men in contrast to global norms.

Unimaginable numbers of girls are secretly aborted or killed in infancy every year by parents seeking boys, skewing the sex ratio dramatically.

In the past four decades, hundreds of millions of men and women have been forcibly sterilized or have intrauterine devices inserted under Chinese family planning policies.
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The controversial policy was introduced nationally in 1979, to slow the population growth rate.

It is estimated to have prevented about 400 million births. However concerns at China's ageing population led to pressure for change.

Couples who violated the one-child policy faced a variety of punishments, from fines and the loss of employment to forced abortions.
Advocates have also raised the very valid point that changing it to a "two-child policy," rather than just implementing functional family planning programs, does nothing to remove the elements of coercion and government control over highly personal decisions.
"The fact that they are moving from a one-child policy to a two-child policy does not take care of the issue of coercion at all," said Reggie Littlejohn, founder of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, a San Jose-based nonprofit that campaigns against forced and sex-selective abortion in China.

"Whether they are having one or two children, they will have to have a birth permit for each child, and they will face coercion, unless they are rich enough to bypass the limits,” Littlejohn added. "Poor people have to obey the law and rich people have to buy their way out of it."
What is interesting to me that I think a lot of people have missed is the fact that the policy was originally implemented under the influence of Western concerns about overpopulation and ecological strain, which have now been shown to be baseless and overblown. Chinese policymakers took their cues from alarmism from the Sierra Club and the Club of Rome and originally rolled out the policy to the delight of hardliner environmentalists everywhere. In addition to slamming the Communist regime for its human rights abuses, perhaps the West should take a look in the mirror and remember that the ideas we sell to "poor countries," no matter how well-intentioned, can still be catastrophic.

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