China’s One Child Policy represents one of the darkest aspects of human rights abuses globally. Today marks the 35th anniversary of the introduction of this draconian measure and it provides a much-needed opportunity to reflect on the devastation and heartache that the policy has caused.
The original aim of the policy seemed innocuous enough – with a growing population, the Chinese government actively started looking at ways to make plans for the future of what was, in the late 1970s, a thriving economy. But as with every plan that places the rights and needs of human beings in second place to anything, things went horrifically awry.
Anyone who has been following the development of the Policy cannot help but be shocked by the barbaric way the Chinese people have been treated as a result. Due to the restrictive nature of news emerging from the People’s Republic, it has taken time for those in the west to become aware of what was happening. But thanks to the heroic efforts of activists like Chen Guangcheng (who was imprisoned due to his efforts), and Reggie Littlejohn of the group Womens’ Rights Without Frontiers, facts have been making their way out.
We’ve heard about the terrifying stories of women like Feng Jianmei, who was beaten and dragged from her home by Family Planning Officials while her husband was out working. When her family were unable to pay the fine imposed by officials on any family that dares to breach the Policy, she was forcibly aborted at 7 months. While it is unimaginable that something so barbaric could happen in this day and age, it is not an isolated case – a fact proven by a later news story emerging of Gong Qifeng, again forcibly aborted at 7 months when she was found to be carrying a second son. We can only imagine the mental trauma inflicted on these women and others like them.
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While Gong Qifeng was carrying a second son, it is baby girls who have borne the brunt of the Policy since it was initiated, due to the fact that baby boys are given a higher value in China and as such, families usually opt to abort girls if they are only allowed to have one child. This causes its own difficulties. In 2010, the Economist ran a cover story highlighting the fact that over 100 million baby girls are “missing” – dead through sex-selective abortion, infanticide and general neglect. Nowhere is this problem more prevalent than China, where official figures released in 2014 estimated that there were 33 million more Chinese men than women. Gender imbalances like this lead to problems of human trafficking and, on an economic level, difficulties regarding hugely increased pressure on the younger generation.
With so many tragedies arising from the Policy, the question remains: will anything be done to bring it to an end? There is considerable resistance, certainly. In 2013, the Policy hit the headlines when it was announced that there was a “significant easing”. But seasoned commentators were not fooled. Womens’ Rights Without Frontiers were insistent that the only suitable treatment of the Policy at this stage is its complete elimination. Nothing else will suffice for the needs of families in China.
The pressure worldwide is certainly growing on the Chinese Government to re-visit its actions in this regard. The 35th anniversary also provides a chance to consider that fact that the babies who were first subjected to abortions under its rules would have been 35 years old. They would have been living their own lives, contributing to Chinese society and having families of their own. Instead, they have been denied a chance at life in the most horrendous way imaginable and their families have been left to bear the brunt.
Pro-life activists in Ireland will highlight the extreme gender inequality caused by the One Child Policy during their marking of the Day of the Girl Child on October 11th, when the documentary “It’s A Girl” will be shown in a bid to foster discussion about how abortion discriminates against baby girls while they are still in the womb. In China, this discrimination is not only state-sanctioned by promoted through the One Child Policy. After 35 years of misery and fear for the Chinese people, it’s time for the international community to turn its attention to the Chinese Government and make their position clear: it’s time to abolish the Policy.