Changes recently introduced to China’s brutal one-child policy are not likely to reduce the number of forced abortions or ease human trafficking in the country, according to a prominent American women’s rights activist whose group is battling forced abortion and sexual slavery in China.
Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of California-based Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, said Beijing’s move allowing couples to have two children if either parent is an only child under a so-called reform of the one-child policy “is not going to end gendercide,” the voluntary sex-selective abortion of baby girls.
“And even if it did—even if the numbers of girls improved immediately in response to this modification of the one-child policy—the effect of that would not be felt on human trafficking for decades to come,” she said in an interview with RFA.
A traditional preference for boys among Chinese families has created a gender imbalance as some couples opt for sex-selective abortions.
Littlejohn said that while the Chinese government has promised to end gendercide, “they have not taken any effective action whatsoever.”
"Girls are being selectively aborted in China, in massive numbers, to this day," she said.
Preference for sons
Reggie Littlejohn in an undated photo.
Littlejohn called on the Chinese authorities to remove the incentive for son preference among Chinese families.
“Because of son preferences in China, people feel that if they have only one child or if they have two children, their only child or one of their two children must be a boy,” she said, adding, “And that has led to very serious abortion or abandonment of baby girls.”
“So now there’s a situation where there’s about 37 million more men than women living in China, and that is driving human trafficking and sexual slavery because there aren’t enough women, because there’s an enormous gender imbalance,” Littlejohn said.
“There is human trafficking all over the world, but it’s much worse in China because of the one-child policy,” she said.
Littlejohn’s Women’s Rights Without Frontiers is a broad-based, international coalition striving to raise public awareness on the “coercive enforcement of China’s One Child Policy, the connection between this coercion and human trafficking in Asia, and the other human rights abuses that arise out of this coercive enforcement.”
Under policy changes announced in November 2013, the ruling Chinese Communist Party “has given the green light to couples wanting to have two children if [either parent] is an only child,” according to a Nov. 16 report by the state-controlled Xinhua news service.
But the number of Chinese couples that will be covered by the new policy “is not very large across the country,” Xinhua said, quoting Wang Pei’an, deputy director of China’s National Health and Planning Commission.
“In addition, there is no unified timetable nationwide to start the new policy, as regions will implement it at different times based on their local situation,” Xinhua continued, quoting Wang.Upgrade criticized
Littlejohn also criticized the U.S. State Department for upgrading China this year from the lowest ranking in an annual global survey of human trafficking, calling the move “completely unwarranted and baseless.”
Last month, the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons placed China on Tier-2 Watch List—the second lowest rank—after dumping it last year to the Tier-3 blacklist of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.
The report noted the change made by Beijing to allow families with one single-child parent to have a second child.
It said that the change “may affect future demand for prostitution and for foreign women as brides for Chinese men—both of which may be procured by force or coercion.”
The report added that the Chinese government was ”making significant efforts” to meet basic standards in fighting human trafficking.
“I think that that is completely unjustified, because this so-called modification of the one-child policy was extremely minor,” Littlejohn said.
“But whether a woman has one child or two, she will still need a permit authorizing the birth of each child, Littlejohn said. “And if she doesn’t have one, she will still have a forced abortion.”
“That is never a proper way to control a population.”Failure to act
Meanwhile, in the absence of changes made to Chinese cultural views, gendercide will continue unabated, Littlejohn said.
“Allowing couples to have a second child is not going to end gendercide,” she said.
Chinese daughters, when they marry, traditionally join the households of their husband’s family and help support his parents in their old age, “so the entire investment now that people make in raising their daughters goes entirely to the family of the young man that she marries.”
China’s government could reduce the numbers of aborted or abandoned girls by providing economic incentives to families giving birth to girls and special compensation to retirement-age couples who have no sons to support them, Littlejohn said.
“But they have not taken any effective action at all,” she said.
"There is no need for a one-child policy. It should be abolished entirely."