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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother

Xinran was a reporter in China for the decades after the One Child Policy began through present day China. She has encountered many mothers who gave up their daughters and has interviewed them. Here are some things she has to say about this.

  • In the rural parts of the country to "do a baby girl" is to kill it the moment it is born. An idea behind this, in one person's words is "A girl baby isn't a child. If it was, we would be looking after it." This is because they provide no land allotment from the government but are yet another mouth to feed. A midwife can get a big fee to "do" a girl.
  • More progressive Chinese couples didn't have the heart to "do" their baby girls, but still believed firmly in the traditions of Chinese culture and they needed a son to carry on the family line and in some cases, to have a happy afterlife. These couples would leave their baby girls in the city streets, hoping someone would care for them, aware that city people lived better and treated girls better than country folk.
  • In 2007, if a Chinese person wanted to adopt a Chinese baby, it would cost $1300-$6500 for a boy or $25-$39 for a girl. Westerners paid approximately $5000 regardless of gender.
  • When orphanage workers saw how western parents treated their Chinese babies like princesses, sent back pictures of the little girls in dance class, on the beach, the guest of honor at huge birthday parties, in Chinese School classes and when they heard that girls get to go to university and have all rights and privileges afforded to boys, many orphanage workers abandoned their own girls or helped friends or relatives to do so. They did this so that the girl would be given the chance for a better life.
  • Chinese mothers who give up their girls aren't heartless; they usually think about their daughters every day for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, by Chinese law and culture, a woman belongs to her husband's family and the in-laws insist that their grandchild must be a boy to burn the incense at the ancestors' shrine, add to the family land, and carry on the family name. In-laws can punish a daughter-in-law who doesn't give them a daughter by beating or starving her. One mother said "The mothers of girls are heartsick" and another said that women have two wishes: to give birth to a boy and to not be reborn in the next life as a girl.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Some information and history on Chinese Adoption

Background on the One-Child Policy:

* In the 1950's Mao Tse-Tung urged his people to have lots of children to strengthen the country.
* In the 1970's China became worried that she wouldn't be able to feed her people.
* The One Child policy was started in 1979.
* Since boys carry on the ancestral family name, they are more valued than girls.
* Tradition says that children belong to their father's lineages and daughters become part of their husband's family.
* Inheritance laws pass on to sons, and sons are supposed to take care of their aging parents.
* This leads to hundreds of thousands of "missing girls" in China every year. Most of them are abandoned.
* Depending on the numbers and source, the estimates vary between 24 million and 50 million Chinese men who will be unmarried due to lack of Chinese women by 2020.
*Access to health, eduction and social services are based upon one's hukou (or registration) which is inherited. If you are a second born child or born in a rural area, you don't get a hukou that will afford you access to good health care or education.

I have encountered many people who become angry at Chinese people in general for their thinking and beliefs or who say with disgust that Abigail's mother must have been an awful person to abandon her. It is important to remember, however, that when you do that, you are judging someone in another culture using your own culture, biases, beliefs, values and upbringing. These are not the same for everyone in the world and while you might not understand it, it is myopic to condemn it. The traditional thinking is best described in the ancient "Book of Songs" (1000-700 B.C.):

"When a son is born,
Let him sleep on the bed,
Clothe him with fine clothes,
And give him jade to play...
When a daughter is born,
Let her sleep on the ground,
Wrap her in common wrappings,
And give broken tiles to play..."

Washington Post, NBC News