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How China’s Gender Imbalance Led to Trafficking of Brides: One-Child Policy

‘The One-Child Policy”, a policy that was introduced by the Chinese government to control its exploding population in the late 1970s is now turning to be a bane for the country’s future. With the rapidly ageing population and lesser workforce, the country is amid a crisis.

But amongst these hitches, a more concerning implication of this cataclysmic policy is the skewed sex-ratio which is igniting the trafficking of women from the neighbouring countries.

The One-Child Policy

China’s consistent economic growth has made China, one of the world’s greatest power. But in its early days; with the rapid industrialisation and advancement, it faced massive famine and housing shortages; and the population bomb was already ticking, so it came up with its famous pre-eminent policy.

The famous ‘One-Child Policy’ was a program implemented by the central government of China in 1979. The policy legally forbad any couple (except a few exceptions) from having more than one-child; with the ides of reducing the country’s population.

Though the policy succeeded in controlling the skyrocketing population of China, experts believe it prevented the birth of about 4 million children. But still, the policy turned out to be a disaster for the country’s future. It left China with a population that is old and shrinking.

The Total Fertility Rate(FTR) of women in China has fallen from 6.5 in the 1960s to 1.6 now; which is well below the required 2.1 FTR. This simply means that there are just not enough children which are causing China’s working population to shrink.

Seeing the unintended and disastrous consequences, the One-Child Policy was withdrawn in 2015 and now a couple are allowed to have two kids. According to a state-run media house Xinhua, the change in policy intends to tackle the challenge of an ageing population; but experts fear it would not make a significant difference.

Skewed Population: One-Child Policy

China’s one-child policy’s consequence is not just the massive retiring population, but the decades of this policy have also left the country with a skewed population i.e. gender imbalance. The patriarchal society of China preferred a boy over a girl child which results in high female child mortality, further worsening the condition.

The skewed population have left China with what it called ‘Missing Female’; i.e. unusual shortage of female thus drastically influencing the cultural influence and upcoming government policies. Between the time of 1980 to 2010 male children population outnumbered the female population by an estimate 36 million.

This all has lead China to become one of the worst female-to-male sex ratios. Today for every 114 boy child there is just 100 girl child, in comparison to the global sex-birth–ratio at birth which is 105 boy for every 100 girls.

Unwanted girl child coupled with the one-child policy has long created a chain of child trafficking in China. Because of the desire of having a boy child to support the parents in their elderly days, many parents were forced to abandon their girl child or to sell them to traffickers.

How the One-Child Policy Started Bride Trafficking?

The skewed population have cause male to outnumber females in millions. These men are now having trouble in finding brides, especially those residing in the rural areas where males are less educated and under-employed, therefore end up as less desirable suitors.

According to an article by the BBC, brides in China are being traded (dowry); men in certain remote regions have to pay a hefty price to get a bride. The price of the brides are skyrocketing according to the article; men in some villages pay as high as $30,000 to get a bride.

An article published by the Global Times predicts that the gender imbalance will go worse in the coming 20-30 years. The issue is dire and inevitable, but how is China planning to tackle the arisen situation?

What is China Planning to Do?

A Chinese think tank suggests that ‘leftover’ women residing in urban areas can be coupled with the unmarried men in the rural areas. The women who are above the age of 27 and are unmarried falls under the category of these ‘leftover women.

The NGO advises these women not to be afraid of seeking life in rural areas. Furthermore, the NGO suggests the ruling government to provide incentives to the women for getting married to the rural men along with providing vocational training to the unmarried or ‘leftover men'(as the NGO puts it).

For long, women from the neighbouring countries like Myanmar are being trafficked into China. The brutal business of trafficking brides usually target women from ethnic minorities in Northern Myanmar. The poor women are then sold to rural Chinese families for anywhere between $3000-$13000.

A new report by the Human Rights Watch doubts that now women from North Korea, Pakistan, Cambodia and Vietnam are also trafficked to be brides of the leftover Chinese men. These women are abused, raped and the main purpose of these trafficked women is to produce babies as soon as possible.

What Can be the Way Forward?

Disregarding one’s concern can never be the solution to bridging the gender gap imbalance. An article by HRW have proposed Polyandry i.e. multiple husbands, but the Chinese netizens ferociously pushed back the proposal; but what will the Chinese government decide?