We live in a world where two extremes exist.
Women in China, specifically those who are of low-income background or live in rural demographics, are subject to China’s brutal one-child policy instituted forcefully since 1979. On the other hand, women of poverty in the Philippines lack access to contraception, contributing to the exponential population growth of a nation whose resources fail to accomodate for its booming population. In spite of the stark difference between China’s stringent family-size limitation and the Philippines’s lack thereof, women in both countries are subject to the same injustices: lack of reproductive rights, the performance of thousands of unsafe abortions, high rates of female suicide, and immense poverty.
What is most important in the press for women’s reproductive rights is not government control or lack thereof, but rather the ability for each government to provide adequate and accessible resources and knowledge for women to foster their reproductive rights.
One-Child Policy in China
China’s one-child policy was instituted mainly in part to control its population. Currently, the population of China is 1.34 billion. As a result of the nation’s one-child policy, 332 million abortions and 222 millions sterilizations have been linked to the legislation.
The policy has also resulted in a noticeable gender gap in which females make up 48.73% of the nation’s population due to the selective preference of boys and growing number of abortions of female fetuses.
In a recent New York Times opinion article, China’s one-child policy was illustrated to be a regulation that particularly burdened women of poverty. For wealthy families, the stipulations of the 1979 law are evaded by paying a “social compensation fee” (costing a family 3-10 times of their household income) or by traveling to major cities such as Hong Kong or Singapore to give birth.
What are the major consequences of China’s one-child policy?
- Severe health consequences for women – Abortions are mandatory for women who do not adhere to the law and are strictly enforced for women in rural areas. There are an increasing number of sterilizations, IUD insertions, and selective abortions for girls performed. Such trauma has been linked to China’s female suicide rate as ranked highest in the world.
- Economic gain for law enforcement – The policy is particularly devastating for women living in rural areas. Family planning officers in rural villages attentively keep track of the menstrual cycles and pelvic-exam results of the women living in their area. Promotion of local officers is based upon proof of effectively limiting the number of births in their area.
- A quasi-“unified” nation – A recent Forbes article entitled “Why China is Finally Abandoning its One Child Policy” asserts a thought-provoking perspective asserting that the policy has motivations far beyond population control. Rather, it is to create a “unification of the public in support of an unelected, autocratic central government.” Prior to Mao Zedong’s Communist rule, Chinese emperors “discouraged industrialization” and inheritance was divided among siblings as the father of the family died, creating the family as the center of ensuring one’s economic well-being. However, as a result of China’s one-child policy, the decreasing size of family units have led to a breakdown of family allegiance and a dependence and resulting loyalty to the central government for financial stability.
Lack of Access to Contraceptives in the Philippines
In a country booming with a population of 96.5 million and ranked as the 12th largest country in the world, the lack of access to contraceptives is a significant barrier to population control and effective distribution of resources.
18.4% of the Filipino population lives under the poverty line. As a result, the increasing population has boomed to 1 doctor per 30,000 people (compared to the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 1 doctor per 10,000 people). Seven out of ten mothers are teenagers, and 475,000 illegal abortions are performed each year.
The powerful and influential leverage of the Catholic Church and its leaders is a major proponent against access to contraceptives, despite the support of 70% of the population for contraception use.
In mid-January, the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 was approved by the President Aquino and the Filipino legislature in late December. The bill outlined free or subsidized contraceptives to poor women. Recently, in March 2013, however, the Supreme Court has stalled the implementation of the bill after ferocious opposition from pro-life Catholic groups. The Court will consider arguments from both sides on June 18, 2013.
What are the major consequences of the Philippines’ lack to contraception?
- Impetuous cycles of poverty – There simply aren’t enough resources to sustain the exponential growth of the Filipino population, resulting in inescapable cycles of poverty that continue to affect more and more people each year.
- Significant burdens of responsibility for pregnant women and mothers – Because of the lack of access to contraceptives, women are expected to give birth to their children and adequately provide for their family. Because a great majority of the Filipino population is Catholic, women who undergo abortions are oftentimes stigmatized and seen as criminals or sinners.
- Continual exploitation of cheap human labor – As the Filipino population booms and resources are scarce, corporations and businesses are able to exploit the disparities of those in poverty in order to utilize them for cheap labor. The Philippines is one of the most common providers of the human trafficking industry in South East Asia.
As China’s one-child policy continues to be in effect and the Philippines’ population continues to soar, it is imperative that we see these issues not only as the ignorance of women’s reproductive rights, but also as an unjust and unacceptable violation of human rights.
… it is imperative that we see these issues not only as the ignorance of women’s reproductive rights, but also as an unjust and unacceptable violation of human rights.
It is our collective responsibility to become educated about these issues and to continue to demand justice not only for the women and children these policies affect, but on behalf of the world that seeks to uphold the value of each human’s right for the opportunity of a healthy and worthwhile life.
For further reading about China’s one-child policy and the battle for reproductive rights in the Philippines, please check out these websites. Many statistics in this post are found in these articles:
- New York Times, “China’s Brutal One-Child Policy“
- Forbes, “Why China is Abandoning its One Child Policy”
- Public Radio International, “China’s One-Child Policy Increasingly Becoming Questioned”
- Op-ed, World Socialist Web Site, “Philippine reproductive health bill continues to legalize abortion”
- Los Angeles Times, “Philippines birth control: Filipinos want it, priests don’t” – Great article and media!
- The Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, “Reproductive Health Bill Stalled in Philippines Supreme Court”