Sex-selection abortions help cause growing imbalance in China

WASHINGTON — More than 24 million Chinese men of marrying age are likely to be unable to find wives in the year 2020, partly because of the frequency of sex-selection abortions.

A government-supported study issued Jan. 11 showed the huge imbalance of the sexes, which it described as the country's most significant demographic problem. China is the world's most populous country, with about 1.3 billion people.

China has enforced population control — commonly referred to as a one-child policy — since 1979. Its policy limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children.

With the aid of ultrasound technology, couples are able to choose abortion if the wife is carrying a female. Many couples desire male babies, so they can be supported financially by their sons as they age.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in its report, "Sex-specific abortions remained extremely commonplace, especially in rural areas," according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). AFP's article was based on a report by the Global Times, a newspaper operated by the Chinese government.

The study said the primary contributing factors to the imbalance included the population control program and an inadequate social security system.

The lack of women already is causing major social upheaval in some parts of China. The kidnapping and trafficking of women is "rampant" in regions with an excess of men, according to AFP. Forced prostitution and illegal marriages also are issues in those areas.

Penalties for violations of the population control policy have included fines, arrests and the destruction of homes, as well as forced abortion and sterilization. Infanticide, especially of females, also has been reported.

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