Couples usually have six, seven, or even eightchildren. For the rich men who can afford a few wives, they may have 10—20 children. After the introduction of birth control measures in the s, family size became smaller. Couples feel obliged to bear a male heir for the family. That was the time before gender selection technology and procedures are available. The way to ensure having a son is to produce more children or marry another wife. Infertile couples will have to rely on adoption of their nephew by the kind permission of a kinsman.
They must adopt because they will need a son to carry out the funeral rituals when they die. Being infertile or not having a son is a curse in life.
The traditional culture of aspiring to sons stays with the population. It is the duty of the Chinese wife to bear a son to continue the family name. The population in the rural areas and people who are lowly educated tend to want sons much more than daughters. They prefer sons to daughters because sons can help in farming and heavy duties. Sons are essential to the traditional Chinese soci- eties. Liu and Rose 3 showed that the majority of Asian women attending a gender clinic had two or more daughters and requested sons.
In the traditional family genogram in the ancestral halls, only the names of sons and grandsons are put onto the list. Daughters are not even counted into the fam- ily list, as they will change their surname once they get married; while sons could keep their surname un- changed and so keep the continuity of the family line. Old Age Security and Support Changing surnames of the daughters after marriage means many things in Chinese societies. Once the daughters get married, it is believed that they belong to her husband and his family, and thus they would also move out from her family-of-origin.
Her family- of-origin, especially her parents, relies heavily on their sons and daughters-in-law for the security of old age.
Therefore, families place much preference on male offspring. Male Patriarchy The men usually make all the major decisions in the family. Women have to be submissive and comply with traditional and cultural norms and expectations 4.
We would usually turn off our light and assume that we are not at home. Chinese equate fertility, sexual ability, and potency to male strength and energy in life. Ability to bear children is seen as of utmost importance. There is a strong sense of shame and guilt associated with infer- tility. The cultural expectations on male potency and fertility can be a source of social pressure on Chinese people. A man joining the as- sisted reproduction clinic of the Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong broke down in tears during a counsel- ing session.
He said that it was very stressful to keep the secret of his infertility from his parents and family members. Being the only son in the family, he felt a strong sense of shame not being able to continue the family name.
This leads to gender discrimination in labor market: Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, Vol. In China, the issue of gender preference was com- plicated by the introduction of the One Child Policy to control the population. This policy has been in place for over 20 years. According to this policy, couples in urban areas are usually allowed to have one child.
Couples from ethnic minority groups in border areas may have two or three children. The aim is to control the population growth.
With the reinforcement of the One Child Policy it leads to two very serious consequences: Couples who violate the One Child Policy will be severely sanctioned. When the couples can have only one child, most of them will naturally desire for a son, thus creating a huge market for technologies and techniques for gender selection. However, the Chinese laws prohibit the use of tech- nologies for gender selection for social reasons.
Gender Ratio at Birth Almost 20 years after the government began to try limiting the population by the One Child Pol- icy, there has been a rapid decline in the crude birth rate in China, In the s and s, the gender ra- tio at birth was very close to 5. Since the mid- s, it has been rapidly increasing, with It is believed that it continuously increased in recent years up to in The reason for the change in gender ratio is not known, but the possibility of prenatal diagnosis of the gender of the fetus followed by abortion of a female fetus cannot be excluded.
The easy access to abor- tion services and the development of technology for prenatal diagnosis may aggravate this problem. Figure 1 shows that the ratio of the number of deaths of males to those of females of age less than 1 year in urban and town districts is very different from that in the rural districts. For the urban and town dis- tricts, the ratio was 1. The cause for such a differ- ence in the ratios of the mortality rates is not known, but it may be caused by a difference in quality of care being offered with the male infants receiving better quality care.
The number of girls in orphanages in China is much higher than that of boys. There are an estimated one Fig. The infant mortality gender ratio by district in China, More girls are being abandoned soon af- ter birth, and the boys who are being abandoned are mainly babies with visible disabilities or illness.
The girls are being abandoned because if the parents do not register the girl, they can still use the childbearing permit to make a second trial for a boy. Abandonment is taken as a form of gender selection by these parents. China is the only country in the world where the male-to-female suicide rate is less than 1 Also the rural suicide rate was four times as much as the urban counterparts. And the rural women suicide rate of the age group 20—35 was one of the highest and exceeds their male counterparts.
The main cause of high female suicide rates are linked to the use of fatal method, poverty, and low status of women especially in rural China The imbalance between males and females is a pat- tern seen in many Asian countries, but not to the same extent as in China. There are an estimated — males born for every females in China, while the international norm is males to females. Table I gives the gender ratios of the age group 0—4 of selected countries based on a report from the World Health Organization.
Many Asian countries have ex- ceeded the world norm, but Mainland China has the highest ratio of