Wednesday, October 28, 2015

No! Really?!

"We have so many more men than women. Serious social problems, such as rape and assaults will happen if men cannot find wives. But it doesn't have to be like that if they are given choices."
"No one is forcing anyone to accept 'one wife, many husbands'."
"With so many guanggun ['bare branches': unattached males], women are in short supply and their value increases. The guanggun problem is actually a problem of income. High income men can find a woman because they can pay a higher price."
"What about low-income men? One solution is to have several take a wife together. That's not just my weird idea. In some remote, poor places, brothers already marry the same woman."

Xie Zuoshi, professor of Finance Economics, Zhejing University, China

"Men are publicly debating how to allocate women, as though women were commodities like houses or cars."
"Behind the imbalanced sex ratio of 30 million bachelors lie 30 million baby girls who died due to sex discrimination. But somehow everyone's still crying that some men can't find wives."
Zheng Churan, feminist activist
05_29_China_01 Young women deep in discussion at a table in a Beijing nightclub. Women are in the demographic driver’s seat in China, and they will be for years to come. Mark Henley/Panos
Well, it is a problem for the world's most populous country. It is, moreover, a problem that the country brought on itself, more or less. In a bid to slow down the expanse of naturally occurring population increase, the government enacted laws forbidding families to have more than one child. And since, in China, as in the second most-populous country in the world India, boy babies are considered to be more desirable than girl babies, such babies were often sacrificed, left to die so another opportunity for pregnancy might result in a boy being born.

With more modern techniques available to determine the sex of an unborn child through an ultrasound, a family can choose to abort, and try again. So when Zheng Churan accuses her society of sacrificing a like number of girls, to the number of young men failing to find a marriage partner, her acerbic prod on society's conscience knows of what it speaks. Even so, it is unlikely to make much of a difference to a society's cultural preferences long engrained and practised.

Sex-selection abortions will continue, even though Beijing has lifted the sanction on more than one child. In the countryside, on farms, in any event, there was a more relaxed version of the one-child policy, and still the selection toward boys remained in practise. And ironically enough, the very same families that selected for a son as opposed to daughter now moan and groan that their adult son is unable to find a wife due to the shortage of marriageable women.

05_29_China_02 By 2020, the National State Population and Family Planning Commission projects that in China, males of marrying age will outnumber females by at least 30 million. Mark Henley/Panos

When opportunity knocks, opportunists will open the door. If young women whose scarcity makes them rare objects of desire decide it is in their best interests to accept a proposal from a well-heeled suitor as opposed to a young man with few future economic prospects to speak of, practicality will always win out; or at least most often. The situation of simple supply-and-demand that economist Xie Zuoshi wrote of, did not sit well with most Chinese.

His blog post resulted in a storm of criticism, despite the National Bureau of Statistics revealing that 116 boys are born in China for every100 girls. Which meant that in 2014 about 700 million males were born in mainland china, but 667 million females. The continued disparity is significant, and it remains to be seen whether the more relaxed child policy issued by Beijing will indeed translate at some future date to an more even distribution of the sexes.

05_29_China_03 The gender imbalance in China is greatly intensified by the one-child policy, which has been in effect since 1980. Dermot Tatlow/Panos

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