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China: Female Infanticide
As soon as the baby girl was born, my mother-in-law kicked it with her toe and said, 'Who wants this?' She wrapped it in a wet towel and left it on the floor. My husband's sister, weak after the delivery, just wept. It died within a few hours." (Arvamudan, 1999)
Female infanticide has been present within some societies for centuries. It continues to represent a social justice concern because the occurrence of female infanticide has historically led to and accounts for millions of gender-selective deaths throughout the world. A feminist perspective of social justice can be utilized to best explain the occurrence of this problem. On the basis of a feminist perspective, female infanticide is a form of violence directed at and used against females, representing one of many different forms of such violence, deeply rooted in sex inequality. As such, female infanticide represents an act of social injustice purposely engaged in to further demarcate and reinforce the boundaries of gender. Alternatively, Confucianism and its historical influence on China has contributed to the ongoing perpetuation and acceptance of female infanticide via its allegiance to a hierarchy and order in which women were subject to men and inheritors of social controls designed to assure their loyalty to men.
Within this paper, an overview will be provided of female infanticide as it occurs within China. In order to thoroughly address this problem, information will be provided regarding the occurrence of female infanticide, those involved, those who are being harmed/adversely affected by the handling of this problem, identification of efforts conducted to stop the pattern and the likely consequences and outcomes if this pattern continues. Subsequently, an examination as to how different systems of justice evaluate female infanticide will be provided. A description of each justice system will be provided as will recommendations regarding female infanticide based on each system. After this, an assessment will be provided on this problem on the basis of this student's views and philosophy of justice. A plan of action will then be offered on the basis of these views, including a plan as to what this student can personally do to help solve this problem. At least one strategy for building power relationships for change will be identified. Finally, the plan developed by this student will be evaluated for potential effectiveness.
Overview of Female Infanticide
Recent data suggests that female infanticide and prenatal sex selection have created a "missing girl gap" of 30 million in China (Phillips, Fawcett & Pankhurst, 2003).
As reported by Jeffrey (2002), female infanticide, sex selective abortions, the abandonment of little girls, and the neglect of baby girls in China remain problems due to the traditional preference for sons, and the family planning policy, which limits urban couples to one child and rural couples to two. Estimates from previous years indicate a very high percentage of pregnancies terminated are of female fetuses and female babies also suffer from a higher mortality rate than male babies, contrary to the worldwide trend (Jeffrey, 2002). While the Chinese government statistics place the national ratio of male to female births at 114 to 100, the World Health Organization estimates the ratio to be 117 to 100 as compared to the global norm of 106 male births to 100 female (Jeffrey, 2002).
According to Jeffrey (2002), demographers in China suggest that there may now be as many as 100 million more men than women. If this is correct, as noted by the author, of the total population of China (1.273 billion), there are approximately 686.5 million men and 586.5 million women. However, as explained by Jeffrey, if post-birth mortality rates are assumed to be the same for both sexes and China had the normal global birth rate of 106 boys for 100 girls, there would have been 647.6 million women in China, approximately 61 million more than there currently are. Thus, the "missing girl" gap in China may actually be twice as large as the estimated 30 million. As noted by Jeffrey, such findings suggest that the Chinese government and the people of China have allowed and participated in the murder of an estimated 30 to 60 million female infants.
Female infanticide has emerged in China as a consequence of government regulations that allow only one child per couple in cities and two in the countryside if they are born at least three years apart (Saini, 2002). Traditionally, as explained by Saini, greater significance is associated with the birth of males as they are expected to support their parents, providing a form of insurance for parents in their old age. On the other hand, females do not offer the same utility and to avoid paying fines to the government, parents kill their female offspring. According to Reist (1999), fines for an illegal pregnancy can be more than a family's total annual income. Penalties for an unauthorized birth can amount to 40% of total income and continue up to 14 years. As well, as explained by Resit, the children of non-conformists are penalized by being denied household registration, which is necessary to obtain medical care and other essential services.
According to Zeng, Ping, Baochang, Bohua and Yongping (1993), female infanticide and abandonment existed in China long before the People's Republic of China established its family planning regulations. During the late 1800s, missionaries reported instances of female infanticide, with the practice continuing up until the 1970s (Zeng et al., 1993). However, after the Chinese government established the "one-child" policy in 1979 as a means for controlling population growth, evidence began to emerge in the 1980s documenting the phenomenon of missing girls in China.
In her account of interviews held with Chinese women who had either killed or participated in the killing of their female infants, Saini (2002) reveals the pain experienced by many of these women in the acts of violence committed against their children. Such evidence fully documents the fact that the "missing girls" of China are not the only ones being harmed by female infanticide. As noted by both Jeffrey (2002) and Saini (2002), both Western and Eastern official accounts of the "missing girls" in China fail to acknowledge the pain experienced by the mothers of these children and the horrendous events that accompany the establishment of an infants status as "missing."
While it appears that globalization has led to greater attention being directed to this problem, as reported by Jeffrey (2002), the world and the governments of nations throughout the world (including the U.S.) continue to couch and conceal the realities of female infanticide in China within discussions on demography, family planning, reproductive rights, the gathering of census data, and possible explanations as to why the gaps that currently exist between male and female births are present. It is Jeffrey's contention that the world is sitting by and continuing to silently witness another holocaust occur.
According to Greenhalgh (2001), as greater attention has been drawn to the disparities in numbers between male and female births within China, the Chinese government has made some movement towards further examination of and response to this problem. Consequently, permission was given to families in rural areas (where anti-female bias is stronger) to have a second child if the first was a girl. As reported by Greenhalgh, in 1995, the government established a small pilot project to test the feasibility of innovations to improve the "quality of care" in the birth control program. Such projects, as noted by the author, were launched under the auspices of giving women's health and choice greater weight while continuing to retain control of population growth. The aim of these efforts were to continue with the emphasis on demographic control suggests while attempting to improve the delivery of services in the birth control program. It was the government's stance that China remained a nation in demographic crisis saved by the one-child policy.
According to Gillis (1995), the reduced number of girls relative to boys in China will have society-wide effects in the future. In a country where 96% of the population marries, as noted by Gillis, it is expected that there will be a shortfall in the number of women available for marriage. Gillis explained that projections estimated that by the year 2000, on the basis of birth and death rates, timing of first marriages, and the size of the population, marriageable men will outnumber marriageable women 106 to 100 in the age cohort that was born around the time China's family planning policy began. By 2020, as Gillis reported, it was estimated that the ratio will reach 110 to 100. Should female infanticide continue, it was expected that the ratio will only go up, translating into millions of unmarried men.
As further explained by Gillis (1995), the impact that this will have on young men remains unclear. However, as noted by the author, within China, like other traditional societies, identity comes from being part of a family. According to Saini (2002), evidence already exists of males banding together in raiding parties to obtain…[continue]
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