- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When Chinese officials created the country’s one-child-per-couple policy in 1978, they intended to contain the country’s burgeoning population for the sake of economic growth, national security and environmental preservation.

But Chinese boys now outnumber Chinese girls by the millions, and the impact of the lopsided sex imbalance is starting to spill beyond China’s borders.

This phenomenon of “missing girls” has turned China into “a giant magnet” for human traffickers, who lure or kidnap women and sell them — even multiple times — into forced marriages or the commercial sex trade, says Ambassador Mark Lagon, who oversaw human rights issues at the State Department during the administration of President George W. Bush.

“The impact is obvious. It’s creating a ‘Wild West’ sex industry in China,” Mr. Lagon said.

In China, “an entire nation of women” is missing because they were aborted before they were born, said Reggie Littlejohn, founder of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, a nonprofit anti-sex slavery group. “This is gendercide.”

To grasp the magnitude of the human-trafficking problem in China, it’s important to have a reliable tally of the “missing girls.”

Recently, the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Services (CASS) predicted that 24 million Chinese men might not be able to find brides in 2020. However, previous estimates put that number in the 30 million to 50 million range.

In fact, a 2009 study in the BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal) said that in 2005, there were 32 million extra Chinese men under the age of 20 — and that 1.1 million extra males were born in just that year.

“Sex-selective abortion accounts for almost all the excess males,” said study authors Wei Xing Zhu, Li Lu and Therese Hesketh, who urged China to enforce its laws forbidding abortions based on gender.

Chinese officials plan to enforce those laws, as well as try to change Chinese “son-preferential ideologies,” said a 2007 report from a Chinese academic institute. A “Care for Girls” campaign is already under way in Chinese districts that have especially large imbalances in their sex ratios, Shuzhuo Li, director of the Institute for Population and Development Studies at Xi’an Jiaotong University in China, wrote in that report.

But changing the deeply rooted “son-preference ideologies” will be very difficult.

Chinese parents believe they must have a son to carry their family name, inherit family properties, support them in their old age and host their funeral ceremonies. Tradition says children belong to their father’s lineages, and daughters become part of their husband’s families.

Because of these ancient beliefs, China’s one-child policy forces couples to choose between “their future retirement and the lives of their daughters,” said Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, a nonprofit pro-life group who has been tracking the one-child policy since the late 1980s.

Chinese officials repeatedly reaffirm the one-child policy, but also appear to be tinkering with it.

For instance, last summer, faced with a stunningly anemic 0.88 children per woman birthrate in Shanghai, officials announced that certain couples could have a second child.

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