Chinese are descendants of Indians
No girls, no future
A simple wooden house in Youqi Village, Guangxi Province, southern China. An old woman crouches in front of an open fire and adds wood, then draws water to boil from a large vat. The ground of compacted clay is damp, chickens are looking for grain by the bed, pigs are walking around outside. Two little boys in dirty t-shirts and shorts play barefoot in the muddy yard.
This is the home of Wei Jiandong. The 25-year-old lives with his parents - but is urgently looking for a wife. It's not easy.
"Every man in our village desperately wants to get married. But since we have no money and no house of our own, we cannot find women. How can you get married without money?"
There are a total of 20 bachelors of marriageable age in Youqi, says Wei. The bitter poverty in the village has driven many young people away. Most of the houses have no running water. Electricity has only been around for a few years. To the next district town you drive for three hours through mountainous no man's land. Those who can go away - for example to the factories in the neighboring province of Guangdong.
Wei Jiandong had also worked there for years. But as a good son he now has to look after his old parents. That's why he came back.
"When I was 14, I left as a migrant worker. I worked in Guangdong for seven years. I came back to help at home. I'm very worried. I don't know if I'll ever find a wife am getting old. Who will marry me then? "
In the country, people get married very early in their early 20s - that's why the 25-year-old already feels old. The fact that Wei cannot find a wife has to do with poverty. Young women usually try to improve their social position through marriage, which is why they give the men in backward Youqi the cold shoulder.
But poverty is only part of the problem. The other is the simple lack of young women of marriageable age. Not enough girls are born in the villages of this remote region. There are around 120 little boys for every 100 female babies. 103 to 106 would be normal.
With almost 120 boys for every 100 girls, the entire province of Guangxi is above the national average. It's no secret, but the local authorities didn't want us to do our own research in Youqi and other villages. It was difficult to shake off the watchdogs and talk to people like Wei Jiandong undisturbed.
Youqi is not an isolated case. In the rest of China, too, significantly more boys are born than girls. Sons are important to the family and are still considered special.
Raising girls is considered a lost labor of love
In Youqi's small general store, shopkeeper Wei Lijuan puts invitation cards in red envelopes. A month ago, his wife finally gave birth to a son. This is cause for celebration. The entire neighborhood is invited to a feast - Wei is expecting 200 guests.
"We are very poor, so we only have a small party. We only have 20 tables with ten people each. That is tradition with us. If you don't have a son, you can't go through the village with your head held high."
Wei Lijuan did not celebrate the birth of his daughter three years earlier. Girls are still considered "spilled water" in rural China. It is said that raising them is a wasted effort and not worthwhile.
Because with marriage, a young woman leaves her own family and becomes a member of her husband's family. There she has the duty to look after her in-laws. She is lost to her own family as a worker and later also fails to work as a geriatric nurse. On the other hand, it is the sons' duty to look after their old parents later. And for years the farmland was also allocated on the basis of the number of sons - girls just didn't count.
That is why the people in the country traditionally prefer to have sons than daughters is perhaps understandable from an economic point of view. But even in cities, the gender balance has shifted significantly since the introduction of the one-child policy 30 years ago, says Lu Jiehua, population expert at Peking University. While the ratio of girls to boys was almost normal 30 years ago, it is now out of whack across the country.
"It is no longer just a problem for rural areas, but also for cities. The gender imbalance has spread from backward areas to more modern areas. There are hardly any differences between rich and poor. Many people today no longer want so many children. Then there are the requirements of family planning policy. If you are only allowed to have one or two children, boys are born selectively. "
The national statistics are appalling. Because they show that so far neither education nor prosperity have led to a change in attitudes towards girls. On the contrary. With technical progress - for example with ultrasound technology - it is much easier today than in the past to determine the gender of the baby in the womb.
This is actually forbidden, but there is an increase in gender-specific abortions, especially in the emerging regions of China, says Mara Hvistendahl, author of the book "The Disappearance of Women".
"Gender selection began in the more developed areas. At the moment it is mainly the medium-sized cities in central and eastern China - not the poorest regions and not the most prosperous. But regions that are developing very quickly. And there are it's the people who have a little extra money. They can afford to bribe the ultrasound technician. They have access to the technology to have a son. "
Girls used to be suffocated, today they are aborted
In the early years of the one-child policy, newborn girls were often killed - suffocated or drowned. In 1989, the British-Chinese author Xinran observed in a village in eastern China how a newborn girl was simply thrown into the toilet bucket as a "useless thing".
In her book "Cloud Daughters", Xinran also describes women who, under family pressure, had to kill their daughters themselves. And midwives who participated. Xinran attributes the high suicide rates among women in rural areas to the psychological consequences of the infanticide.
Today, however, many girls are not even born in rural areas. Because even farming families can now afford an ultrasound scan - and for a surcharge they can also find out the gender of the child. Many female fetuses are then simply aborted. Nobody in the villages in Guangxi wants to speak openly about it. Women talk about abortions as if they were the most normal thing in the world - but they keep silent about the fact that it mainly affects the female fetuses.
"Anyone who is pregnant goes for an ultrasound test. If you have enough money to raise more than one child, you keep the child. Those who cannot afford more children have an abortion."
Sexual abortions have been banned in China since the mid-1990s. In principle, however, abortions are legal; there is nothing morally reprehensible about them. The statistics are imprecise. The Ministry of Health in Beijing speaks of 330 million abortions since the introduction of the family planning policy. That would be about 13 million a year - plus about ten million morning-after pills, or abortion pills, which are sold every year and are used by some young women instead of contraceptives.
Unwanted pregnancies are usually terminated in large public hospitals. Or in outpatient abortion clinics such as in the Chinese prison city of Qingdao. A doctor is talking to a young woman. She plans to have an abortion for the second time this year. In the clinic, four to six abortions are performed on average each day. The rooms are tiny, there are two small treatment rooms.
The clinic is run by a non-governmental organization that wants to enable young unmarried women to terminate unwanted pregnancies anonymously and, above all, safely. Clinic director Xu Jin emphasizes that the high number of abortions has nothing to do with family planning policy.
"90 percent of the women who come to us are unmarried. They became pregnant unintentionally - and often do not know enough about pregnancy and contraception. We only perform abortions in the first three months of pregnancy. If the fetus is already too big, refer the patient we the women to the hospital. "
Late abortions are also performed there without asking much about the reason. The family planning policy at least contributes to the fact that the abortion numbers are so high, says Professor Lu Jiehua.
"We have to admit that two factors are responsible: family planning policies and traditional preferences for sons. We know from other countries that preferences for sons wane as societies evolve. But with us things are different - and so are we." is also due to politics. If you were to allow two children, the gender ratio would certainly be different. "
180 boys per 100 girls for the second-born
But Lu also knows that where couples have two or even three children, the gender imbalance is even greater. If the first child was a girl, couples in the country are allowed to have a second child - this increases the pressure to finally have a parent.
"With the second child, the parents absolutely want a boy. That means we see 170 to 180 boys for every 100 girls with the second child. With third children, even 200 to 300 boys for every 100 girls Pressure to finally have a son even more. "
The "disappearance of women", as Mara Hvistendahl calls it, is by no means limited to China. In India, in some Central Asian republics and even in Southeastern Europe - in countries such as Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia - significantly more boys than girls are born.
"The one-child policy puts women under pressure to ensure that their child or one of their two children becomes a boy. But that is not the only reason. The birth rate in China would also have fallen naturally. Demographers assume that that many people consciously choose fewer children - even without family planning policy. We see that in many developing and emerging countries. When people have fewer children and have access to technologies such as ultrasound, the result is gender-specific abortions. The desire for sons is still there and will not go away - not even with more progress. "
The consequences can be seen above all in China, because after more than 30 years of one-child policy, the shortage of women is particularly acute here. In the generation born between 1980 and 2000, there are about 22 million more men than women. The problem will worsen over the next few years as the cohorts come of age in which the gender ratio has widened even further.
The bachelor villages in Guangxi and other poor regions are only a result of the surplus of men. Experts also expect a significant increase in prostitution and - associated with this - an increase in HIV infections from unprotected sex for sale in the next few years. And contrary to many expectations, the surplus of men has not yet led to an improvement in the status of women in society, says Mara Hvistendahl,
"We see more trafficking in women, we see that brides are being bought from poor regions. There is also evidence of rising crime rates in provinces with a large surplus of men. So it has not improved the position of women."
Attitudes towards women have to change
The Chinese government has long recognized the problem. Campaigns like "Take care of the girls" are intended to raise awareness of gender equality, especially in rural areas. That is not enough, says Lu Jiehua. Because many parents still invest more in their son than in their daughter - for example when it comes to education. Overall, attitudes towards women have to change.
"The basic problem remains discrimination. If nothing changes, we will not really get the gender imbalance under control. We see discrimination everywhere: in educational opportunities, in work, even in pensions. Although we propagate equal treatment, the situation is in China still not ideal. Even among leaders there is little understanding for these issues. If that doesn't change, attitudes won't change and people will make their own decisions. "
There are almost no women in Chinese politics. The seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, the center of power in China, has been an all-male club for more than 60 years. After all, there is a woman again recently among the four vice premiers. There is only one female minister in the 25-person cabinet. Women are openly discriminated against at universities: at some universities and in some courses they need better results than men in order to get a place at university.
Wei Jiandong feeds the pigs in his village, Youqi, Guangxi. The young man faces an uncertain future. Chinese society is extremely family-oriented. Family networks are important. Nothing worries Chinese parents like the fear that their adult children will not be able to find a partner and remain childless. Unmarried young men are referred to as "guan gun", as "bare branches" - because they do not continue the family tree. That's why they have a hard time.
But finding a partner is getting harder and harder. In the cities, bachelors complain that without a condominium they no longer have a chance on the marriage market. In Youqi, too, Wei must first build a house to improve his prospects. But despite these difficulties, everyone still wants sons. Also Wei Jiandong. If he does find a wife one day, he will definitely want a son too.
"In any case, you have to have a son. Without a male descendant, the family tree cannot be continued. Girls also rarely go to the graves of their ancestors - that is the job of men. Without a parent in the family, other people will look down on you. "
Changing such attitudes takes a lot of time. In Asia, only South Korea has so far succeeded in normalizing the gender ratio again. South Korea was one of the first countries to report an unusually high imbalance between newborn girls and boys in the mid-1980s. But the trend has been reversed since the mid-1990s and the ratio is almost normal again with 110 boys to 100 girls - media campaigns and laws against discrimination against women have helped. However, the changes lasted well over a decade.
In China, experts say, a relaxation of the one-child policy could at least help to ease the pressure on women to necessarily have a parent. However, there is currently no change in sight - despite intensive discussions among population statisticians and sociologists.
Nevertheless, there is cause for cautious optimism, say experts. The disproportion between girls and boys is at least no longer growing, but in some areas even a little smaller. Values and attitudes could perhaps change over a long period of time. For the millions of "bare branches", that is, for the men who cannot find a wife today, this is little consolation. But there may be hope again for the next generation and the generation after that.
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