International Human Rights Day – End Forced Sterilization and Gendercide in China

By Reggie Littlejohn

Editor’s note. Thursday was International Human Rights Day, but I just happened upon this post today. Its message — “that it is critical to end forced sterilization in order to stop sex-selective abortion in China”–is timeless.

Reggie Littlejohn in front of the U.S. Capitol

Reggie Littlejohn in front of the U.S. Capitol

Reggie Littlejohn is the President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers. She testified last week before the Congressional Executive Commission on China on “China’s New ‘Two Child Policy’ & the Continuation of Massive Crimes Against Women and Children.” The following is an excerpt from her December 3 testimony.

Women’s Rights Without Frontiers runs a campaign to end the sex-selective abortion of baby girls in China called “Save a Girl.”. Our network of fieldworkers on the ground has saved almost 200 baby girls in one area of rural China. Through this network, WRWF gets direct, up to the minute information about coercive population control in our area of China.

I communicated with the head of our network over the weekend [before the hearing]. Here is what she said about the current condition in our villages after the announcement of the “Two-Child Policy”:

The women in our villages do not see the new Two-Child Policy as a big improvement, because of the threat of sterilization. It is a policy that women must be sterilized after the second child – especially if both children are girls. Women who have a boy as their first child are not likely to have a second child, because after the second child, they would be forcibly sterilized. These sterilizations ruin not only a woman’s reproductive health, but her general health as well. After these sterilizations, the vast majority of women are “never the same again.” They will never recover their strength. For example, in our villages there is no running water. Women need to pump water out of a deep well. Before they are sterilized, women are strong enough to pump water. After they are sterilized, they are no longer strong enough to pump water. This weakness lasts forever and is devastating, because the family depends on the strength of the mother to do farm work.

Especially women whose first child is a girl feel they have to hide their second pregnancy, because they will be automatically sterilized after the second child. If their second child is also a girl, they do not want to be sterilized, because the procedure may break their health and because they want to try again for a boy. Many women will abort or abandon their second daughter under the Two-Child Policy, just as they did under the One Child Policy. The second daughters who are allowed to be born will be hidden, and thus denied hukou, as in our villages, hukou is given to second children only after the mother has been sterilized. Requiring sterilization in order for your child to register and obtain a birth certificate is an atrocity against both women and children.

Instituting a two-child policy will not end gendercide, the sex-selective abortion of baby girls. Indeed, areas in which two children currently are allowed are especially vulnerable to gendercide. According to the 2009 British Medical Journal study of data from the 2005 national census, in nine provinces, for “second order births” where the first child is a girl, 160 boys were born for every 100 girls. In two provinces, Jiangsu and Anhui, for the second child, there were 190 boys for every hundred girls born. This study stated, “sex selective abortion accounts for almost all the excess males.” Because of this gendercide, there are an estimated 37 million Chinese men who will never marry because their future wives were terminated before they were born. This gender imbalance is a powerful, driving force behind trafficking in women and sexual slavery, not only in China, but in neighboring nations as well.

There is little reason to hope that the two-child policy will result in a significant improvement of the sex ratios at birth. Many women whose first child is a boy may choose not to bear a second child because of the great expense of raising a child in China. In the alternative, they may choose not to have a second child to avoid the forced sterilization required after two children. Women whose first child is a girl will still abort second daughters in order to have a son.

[Ms. Littlejohn’s entire testimony can be read here.]