Unmarried mothers in China could be fined 162,000 yuan (more than $26,000) under new regulations. The city of Wuhan, the most populous city of central China, has drafted an ordinance under which a woman who “cannot provide appropriate licences from her partner” or who “knowingly bears the child of someone with another spouse” must pay a “social compensation fee” in keeping with provincial family planning laws.
The fee amounts to something more than six times the disposable income of the average resident of Wuhan, according to the Global Times, a state-run newspaper. Beijing and Guangdong province have adopted similar measures, which reinforce a long-held stigma against single mothers in Chinese society. ”An unmarried woman with a child can be a constant source for rumours and gossip,” says a 2010 article on a government website, China.org.cn.
The cruel effect of China’s policies regarding unmarried mothers was exemplified last week, after a newborn baby boy was recused from a sewer pipe in an apartment building in the city of Jinhua in Zhezhiang province. The baby’s 22-year-old mother told police that the child had ended up in the sewer system accidentally. After he was found and released from the hospital, the baby went with his mother and his grandparents but, says the Guardian, is unlikely to receive any formal support. The baby’s mother said that his father has refused to support her and that she could not afford an abortion.
Wuhan’s proposed regulation shows yet again how, to the Chinese government, maintaining social order is of a paramount concern even if it endangers vulnerable members of society. China has also been seeking to silence those protesting child sex abuse. Feminist activist Ye Haiyan (she is also known as “Hooligan Sparrow”) was beaten up in front of her 13-year-old daughter last Thursday and then detained on charges of assaulting those who had attacked her, The Atlantic reports.
Ye’s “crime” was to bring the sexual abuse of children by officials to light. Earlier this month, a school principal and government official were caught with six underage pupils in a hotel room. Ye posted a picture of herself on Sina Weibo (the equivalent of Twitter in China) with a sign reading “School principal: Get a room with me [if you need to]. Let go of the students!” According to the Offbeat China blog, there have been no fewer than eight separate cases of children being sexually molested by either teachers or government officials in the past 20 days.
While the Global Times usually adopts a conservative viewpoint, it has published an article that says that Wuhan’s proposed ordinance to fine unmarried mothers is an “unfair idea.” Noting that “in China, bearing a child out of wedlock is viewed as immoral,” the article states that such cases are “often complex and cannot be judged by a one-size-fits-all measure.” The new regulation simply “undermines social fairness” as it is mothers who are penalized while “the responsibilities of the fathers” are ignored.” Even more, the poor are “seriously” affected by such regulations, which have “almost no impact on the rich.”
A law such as that proposed in Wuhan could only result in “more cases of abortions and infant abandonment,” the Global Times continues. Already, there are as many as 13 million abortions occurring every year in China, mostly among young, single women who no doubt not only fear society accusing them of immorality but also the effects on their prospects for work and their futures.
Chinese demographers are describing the One-Child Policy as among the “deadly errors” of recent Chinese history. Penalizing unmarried mothers, rather than offering ways to help them have “better livelihoods,” could be yet another.
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