The Chinese, like the people of India, prefer having sons to having daughters on the whole. In both nations this is for a variety of ancient cultural and social reasons.
It didn’t matter too much here in China, until it instituted it’s infamous ‘One Child’ policy in 1979.
From that moment on, many parents were anxious that their one little chick should be male. If the fetus was found to be a female, it would often be aborted – or if a baby girl was born it might well be abandoned or put up for adoption. The result was that the gender balance of young people in China became very skewed, with many more boys being born by comparison to the number of girls. At the moment there are 33 million more men than women in the country and this has huge repercussions on the demographics of the nation. Millions of men will never have wives and families because the number of women available to marry is just too small.
In an attempt to stop the abortion of female fetuses, the government passed laws making it highly illegal for any doctor or health worker to tell parents the gender of the baby they are expecting. This legislation is rigorously policed so nowadays young Chinese couples do not know the sex of their child until it is born.
Earlier this week a 12 year-old school girl was traveling from Shenzhen in mainland China to Hong Kong, ostensibly for a study trip. At the border between China and HK the security guards noticed that her backpack seemed unusually bulky compared with the backpacks of the other cross-border students with whom she was traveling.
They stopped her to check the contents of her backpack; it was found to contain 142 vials of maternal blood which were being carried across the border for gender-testing in Hong Kong. She was also carrying information about each blood donor’s stage of pregnancy, their names, ID card numbers and dates of birth.
Medical technology has been advancing over the years, and it is now possible to conduct a safe, non-invasive blood-test on a woman who is between 7-9 weeks of gestation by analyzing cell-free DNA (cfDNA) circulating in the mother’s blood.
Obviously these 142 vials of blood were to be tested and the results sent back to the parents in the mainland. (I would imagine that this service was only available to those who were prepared to pay a substantial fee). If the test results showed they were expecting a boy, well and good – but if it were found to be a girl, then the mother could have an abortion. Someone was making a profit from all this – I suspect the schoolgirl who was stopped was merely a courier, and she was probably paid a fee to carry the blood.
In 2016 the One-Child policy has been revised and Chinese couples are allowed two children, so you may wonder why people still want to know in advance what the gender of their child will be. But if you already have a daughter, you probably don’t want another one, hence this type of unofficial (and almost certainly criminal) business developing.
It has always been easy for women in China to have legal abortions – and as most of them have never had proper sex education teaching them about their bodies and how to prevent becoming pregnant, abortion has been used by many women as a form of contraception for whatever reason. There is no moral connection between religious belief and having an abortion here in China, unlike the situation in many western countries – Ireland and the USA in particular.
Jianxi, which is one of China’s 32 provinces and regions, has recently legislated that NO abortions are allowed after 14 weeks of pregnancy – this is much earlier than the limits set in most western countries – the reason they have done so is that 14 weeks is the earliest that gender of a fetus can be detected by ultrasound, By using this new technology to test blood at 7-9 weeks, couples can circumvent the law.
Please understand I am not saying that women in China don’t feel just as devastated as women elsewhere who have to take this difficult decision if they feel it absolutely necessary. and I am not going to blame them for taking that option. A woman has the right to determine what happens in her own body.
What I do find incredibly sad is that even in this rapidly developing nation, girls are still undervalued.