sábado, 11 de abril de 2009

O custo social do aborto selectivo na China

32 million extra men the price of selective abortion

France Press
April 11, 2009

Selective abortion in favour of males has left the mainland with 32 million more boys than girls, creating an imbalance that will endure for decades, an investigation released yesterday warns.

The probe provides ammunition for those experts who predict the obsession with a male heir will sow bitter fruit as men facing a life of bachelorhood fight for a bride.

"Although some imaginative and extreme solutions have been suggested, nothing can be done now to prevent this imminent generation of excess men," says the paper, published online by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

In most countries, males slightly outnumber females, with an average ratio of between 103 and 107 male births for every 100 female births.

But in many Asian countries, the sex ratio has widened sharply as the traditional preference for boys is reinforced by the availability of cheap ultrasound diagnostics and abortion.

This has enabled mainland couples to use pregnancy termination to prevent a female birth, a practice that is officially condemned as well as illegal. An additional factor has been the one-child policy.

In general, parents who have a second child are liable to pay a fine and contribute disproportionately towards the child's education. But in some provinces, a second child is permitted if the first is a girl or if parents are experiencing "hardship". And in a few others, couples are allowed a second child and sometimes a third, regardless of sex.

In the study, Zhejiang University professors Wei Xing Zhu and Li Lu, and Therese Hesketh of University College London, found that in 2005 alone, the mainland had more than 1.1 million excess male births.

Among mainlanders younger than 20, the greatest gender imbalances were among those between the ages of one and four - where there were 124 male to 100 female births, with the ratio rising to 126:100 in rural areas. The gap was especially big in provinces where the one-child policy has been strictly enforced, and also in rural areas. Jiangxi and Henan provinces had ratios of more than 140:100 male births in the one- to four-year-old age group.

Among second births, the gender imbalance was even greater, with 143 males born for every 100 females. The ratio peaked at a massive 192 boys to 100 girls in Jiangsu province.

Only Tibet and Xinjiang, the most permissive in terms of the one-child policy, had normal sex ratios.

"Sex-selective abortion accounts for almost all the excess males," the paper said. "Enforcing the existing ban on sex-selective abortion could lead to the normalisation of ratios."

Other policy options were to loosen enforcement of the one-child policy so that couples could have a second child if the first was a girl, it said. The paper did not deal with the social consequences of the extraordinary imbalance, but suggested there were rays of light. Since 2000, the government had launched policies aimed at countering the imbalance, with measures such as a "care for girls" awareness campaign and reforms of inheritance laws, it said.

Partially as a result, the sex ratio of births on the mainland had not changed between 2000 and 2005, and in many urban areas the ratio for the first - and usually only - birth was now within normal limits.

The figures come from a mini census on the mainland in 2005, covering 1 per cent of the population, which sought to rectify flaws found in a 2000 census. A total of 4.764 million people under the age of 20 were included in the study.

In a commentary, Tao Liu and Zhang Xingyi of Jilin University said the preference for sons in China was starting to weaken with urbanisation and industrialisation. Social systems, pensions and higher standards of living eased the son's traditional role of caring for his parents.

The mainland could also follow the lead of South Korea, they said.

In 1992, South Korea had "an astounding" 229:100 gender imbalance, which prompted it to launch a public-awareness campaign combined with strictly enforced laws on gender selection. By 2004, there were 110 male births to 100 females.

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