China to Allow Two Children, but Human-Rights Concerns Continue
“Women will still be forcibly aborted under a universal two-child policy,” activist said, calling for continued pressure on China until it completely “abandons all coercive population control.”
BEIJING — The Chinese government has moved its cap on the number of children per family from one to two, the state’s news agency reported on Thursday. But one women’s rights activist says the change is not enough.
Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, said she is not surprised by the change, “given the demographic disaster China now faces as a result of its one-child policy.”
“However, instituting a two-child policy will not end forced abortion, gendercide or family-planning regulations in China,” she said in a statement.
The one-child policy has been mandated since the 1970s, in an effort to limit the country’s population growth. Recent numbers, however, show an aging demographic that could pose fiscal problems for the country’s future, according to Reuters.
The policy was previously amended in 2013, permitting couples to have a second child if either of them were an only child themselves.
Human-rights activists like lawyer Chen Guangcheng — who spent four years in prison for fighting the one-child policy — have condemned it as “contemporary genocide,” as it has prevented the birth of an estimated 360 to 400 million people since its beginning. They also say it has brought about horrific human-rights abuses.
According to Littlejohn, these abuses will likely continue, despite the change in China’s policy.
“Couples will still have to have a birth permit for the first and the second child, or they may be subject to forced abortion,” the women’s-rights activist explained.
At the core of the policy is not the number of children permitted, but “the fact that the government is setting a limit on children and enforcing this limit coercively,” she said. “That will not change under a two-child policy.”
Earlier this year, Littlejohn testified before Congress on the conditions surrounding the one-child policy in China. She said that women who become pregnant without permission from the state are forcibly removed from their homes and strapped to a table in a forced abortion procedure. They are often forced to sign a form stating that they consented to the abortion or sterilization, she added.
Paid informants have been known to go to the local authorities and reveal their neighbors are illegally expecting a child. Village leaders have even resorted to violence against those who do not comply with the policy.
Suicide among women has become a major problem in the country, which accounts for more than 25% of the world’s suicides. Women have a 25% higher suicide rate than men in China, a statistic that Littlejohn attributes partly to one-child policy’s negative effects on women and fraying of social bonds among neighbors.
Another consequence of the policy has been couples resorting to abortion or even infanticide if they discover their child is a girl; a strong male-preference exists in China, as boys can keep the family name and run the family business or farm. Consequently, China has faced a serious imbalance in their gender ratio.
Ultimately, Littlejohn stressed, the change to a two-child policy is not enough.
“Women will still be forcibly aborted under a universal two-child policy,” she said, calling for continued pressure on China until it completely “abandons all coercive population control.”
“The one-child policy does not need to be modified,” she said. “It needs to be abolished.”