What happens in a culture where males are so heavily valued over females that many families choose to abort or even commit infanticide in order to have a son and assure their family name will be carried on, their family property will stay in the family, and they will have someone to care for them in their old age? To answer this question, all one has to do is take a look overseas at China. The gender imbalance that China is currently facing due to the One-Child Family policy offers unique insight into the cultural and social ramifications of gender inequality.
In an effort to maintain economic stability, the Chinese government enacted the One-Child Family policy, limiting urban couples to one child per family and rural couples to two children per family (but, only if the first child is a girl or one of the parents is the only child from their family). After 25 years of enforcing such a policy—within a culture where males are heavily preferred over females—the results are staggering and have various ramifications. According to a Washington Times article, Chinese boys now outnumber Chinese girls by the millions. Research conducted in 2009 by the BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal) revealed that in the year 2005, there were 32 million extra Chinese men under the age of 20, and that 1.1 million extra males were born in just that year. Recently, the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Services (CASS) predicted that 24 million Chinese men might not be able to find brides in 2020. However, previous estimates put that number in the 30 million to 50 million range (Wetzstein, 2010). The impact of the lopsided sex imbalance is starting to spill beyond China's borders. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that many other Asian countries with declining fertility rates and a traditional preference for males are also seeing sex-ratio imbalances: Taiwan, 1.19; Singapore, 1.18; South Korea, 1.12; and parts of northern India, 1.20—largely because of sex-selective abortion (Hesketh, 2005).
The Chinese government has acknowledged the potentially disastrous social consequences of this sex imbalance. In addition to increased mental health problems and socially disruptive behaviors among men, the shortage of women has resulted in kidnapping and trafficking of women for marriage and increased numbers of commercial sex workers (Hesketh, 2005).This phenomenon of "missing girls" has turned China into "a giant magnet" for human traffickers, who lure or kidnap women and sell them—even multiple times—into forced marriages or the commercial sex trade, stated Ambassador Mark Lagon, who oversaw human rights issues at the State Department during the administration of President George W. Bush. Lagon asserts, "The impact is obvious. It's creating a 'Wild West' sex industry in China," (Wetzstein, 2010).
Horrified by the egregious practices of kidnapping, human trafficking, and sexual slavery that have become “solutions” to the growing problem of gender imbalance, HBO filmed a documentary which brings viewers face-to-face with the crisis brought on by the controversial one child policy. “China’s Stolen Children” tells the story of two parents
who hire a martial arts expert working to recover kidnapped children in an effort to search for their son. We also see a young couple who are forced to sell their daughter because they are too young to marry and obtain a birth permit. The narrator, Ben Kinsley, states, “The Chinese government doesn’t want the outside world to know about the crisis facing China’s children, so this film had to be made entirely undercover. The film crew posed as tourists, moved hotels every three days, and changed SIM cards after every phone call.”
The One-Child Family policy was passed as a way to protect China from economic collapse, but there are clearly unintended consequences affecting the lives of millions of its people. The propagation of human trafficking and sexual exploitation its influence by people, ideas, and governmental policy. It is important that when approaching the fight to end human trafficking that all such influences are considered.
The Effect of China's One-Child Family Policy after 25 Years
Therese Hesketh, Ph.D., Li Lu, M.D., and Zhu Wei Xing, M.P.H.
The New England Journal of Medicine
Volume 353:1171-1176 September 15, 2005
With 1-child policy, China 'missing' girls
'Gendercide' fueling sex trade the Washington Times January 27, 2010 By