The had a population of around 540 million people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lonesome
Men of China

Brides
for Sale

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Anouk Wigman

 

 

 

 

 

Current Issues in Victimology I
08-01-2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Introduction
                In
1979 the Chinese government introduced the one child policy (Tiefenbrun &
Edwards, 2008). Effective from January 1, 2016 the policy was changed to two
children (Source). It is known as one of the most extreme government
interventions to control the population in world history. To make sure that
their families had a boy child, the Chinese people often went to extreme
measures such as sex selective abortions, infanticide or selling their own
little girls. This has caused the gender ratio in China to be severely
imbalanced (Tiefenbrun & Edwards, 2008). A 2016 estimate shows that there
were 115 boys being born for every 100 girls. The world average is 103 boys to
every 100 girls (CIA Factbook, 2016). China’s preference for male children
could be linked to many forms of trafficking: the purchase of women for
marriage, the purchase of a male son or the sale of unwanted little girls. Men,
mostly in rural areas, have trouble finding a wife and resort to buying a wife
(Skalla, 2004). Chinese families wanting a male child, sell or murder their
little girl to buy a trafficked little boy. Human trafficking in China comes in
so many forms and has reached epidemic levels. This exists and is still
expanding to this day for many reasons: China’s extreme implementation of the
one child policy and the Chinese culture in which women are less valuable than
men (Tiefenbrun & Edwards, 2008). This article will focus on the
trafficking of women in China for the sake of marriage and the main causes of
this problem.

2. Background

                A.
The One Child Policy
                When
the People’s Republic of China (PRC) took over in 1949 China had a population
of around 540 million people. By the late 1970s this number increased to more
than 800 million. The government concluded that the land could no longer
provide for the population if this growth continued (Skalla, 2004). They first
tried to control the population growth by launching the ‘wan, xi,
shao’-campaign in which they encouraged people to wait longer for marriage,
wait longer between births and limit their number of children to two per family
(Peng, 2000; Bouman, 2000). Specialists however determined that two children
per family still would be too much. The PRC then decided to implement the one
child policy in 1979. When the one child policy was first implemented it was
strictly executed throughout the PRC. However, it has since been revised and
several exceptions were established. If couples in rural areas have a girl as
their first child, they can apply for a second birth permit. This exception
clearly shows the deeply integrated preference for male children, the
agricultural need and the desire to extend the male line of the family.  Other exceptions to the policy are if one or
both parents have no siblings of their own, some members of minority groups can
have a second child and if a child dies from a non-genetic cause, the couple is
usually allowed to have a second child. Even with those exceptions couples are
often forced to wait several years, because this could cause a woman’s
fertility to decline and having a second baby would be more complicated
(Skalla, 2004).     
                Even
though, enforcement of the one child policy differs by region, the national
government did set out several implementation measures. Couples must be married
and apply for birth permits before having a baby (Li, 1996). This could take
years depending on the number of couples wanting to have a baby in the
community. After having conceived the allowed number of children, women are
required to wear an IUD. Women who have an unauthorized pregnancy often have to
undergo forced abortions, regardless of the stage the pregnancy is in. After
this at least one spouse should be sterilized. Between 1979 and 1984 almost one
third of all marriages had at least one sterilized member (Skalla, 2004).            
                Compliance
with the one child policy is generated in many ways and often also heavily differs
by region. In  some regions, the policy
is strictly executed. People who do not obey, can fall subject to severe
punishment. This punishment can take an economic nature such as fines or
unemployment. Other ways of punishment are psychological and physical
intimidation and even monitoring the menstrual cycle. Women who have an
unauthorized pregnancy often undergo several of these punishments, so they can
be persuaded into ‘voluntary’ abortions (Li, 1996). Local authorities have
autonomy in how to accomplish this (Skalla, 2004).               
                The
one child policy has been effective in achieving its purpose: reducing the
birth rate and therefore the Chinese population. However, the policy had many
negative ramifications. It has increased China’s patriarchy and sex discrimination
of women is embedded within society. The gender ratio has become severely
imbalanced and female babies are considered less valuable than male babies.
They are often aborted, sold or even killed. However, because of this sex
discrimination there is a severe shortage of women and many men are not able to
find a wife (Kane & Choi, 1999).            
                The
one child policy was changed in 2016 and Chinese couples are now allowed to
have two children. Human rights organisations argue that this is still a severe
infringement on a woman’s reproductive rights (SOURCE).

                B. Chinese Culture         
                The
preference for a male child is deeply integrated into the Chinese culture.
Women usually marry into their husband’s family and leave to take care of his
family instead of her own. Typically, only the first-born male can inherit the
family’s money and belongings and only males can continue the family’s
patrilineal line. Women are often dominated by the males in the family,
sometimes even their own sons. Baby girls are often considered a financial
burden who cannot take care of her parents when they are old.
During the Communist era of Mao Zedong the government tried to relieve women
from their subordinate position by giving them the right to vote, access to
education, employment and the right to inherit. However, when China
transitioned to a free market economy in 1979 there was a setback for women’s
rights. Prostitution reappeared, and trafficking of women became a wide spread
phenomenon either for the sex industry or for marriage (Lu, Liu & Crowther.,
2006). While the conservative views of women being less than men does play a
role in the preference for a male child, economic sustainability is an
important factor too. When Mao was leading China, people could rely on the
communist system to provide for them, but with a free market economy this
stability no longer existed. These cultural aspects, economic insecurity and
the one child policy area leading cause in women’s inequality in China and the
sex discrimination it causes (Skalla, 2004). The Chinese preference for a male
child combined with the one child policy has led to a severe gender gap. This
can be caused by three factors: 1) unregistered female babies, 2) high number
of death among female infants, and 3) sex-selective abortion of girls. However,
a 2001 survey in rural areas showed that sex-selective abortions were the main
cause of the gender gap (Junhong, 2001). This gender gap means there is
shortage in women. Many men in China are single and will most likely remain
single because of this.
China has an ancient tradition of selling women for marriage. This was made
illegal as late as 1906 by the Communist Party. In fact, receiving anything,
gifts or money, in trade for marriage has been made illegal under the Marriage
Law. Even though it’s illegality, the practice never completely disappeared.
The gender gap has caused the tradition to be more common even in this era. The
sale of brides was mostly illegalized, because of the Communist Party’s
striving to create equal rights for women (Skalla, 2004). Women were sold and
their families were paid as a compensation for their upbringing. The
reoccurrence of this practice, clearly shows that women are still seen as
commodities. The Chinese law on this matter has some serious flaws. Trafficking
of women by third parties is illegal under Chinese law, but a transaction that
is completed by the woman or her family is not illegal. The marriages are still
unlawful and therefore not registered, but there are never any prosecutions on
this matter. Children born in these unlawful marriages have no legal status in
China. They can not get a passport of birth certificate and have no access to
health care or education (Skalla, 2004).    
                Trafficked
women often face discrimination after their return home. Families are often
ashamed of the victim and that the victim is at fault. They also believe that
the woman loses its value, because she was used by another man instead of her
own (Tiefenburn & Edwards, 2008).

3.
Trafficking of Women             
                China
is a source, destination and transit country when it comes to human trafficking.
Chinese woman and girls are victims of sex trafficking within the borders of
the country. They are often recruited under false promises or physically and
financially threatened. Women from neighbouring countries also fall victim of
human trafficking in China. North Korean women are often victim of forced
prostitution or forced marriage. Some people say that the skewed gender ratio
has caused the demand for prostitution and foreign brides to increase (U.S.
Department of State, 2017).              
                The
trafficking of women within China most commonly involves abduction,
displacement and sale. More often, women in China are kidnapped and sold for
marriage to men who cannot find a wife. The main cause of this is the lack of
local women to marry. Some women are forcibly kidnapped and other women are
seduced to leave their homes under false promises of a better life. These women
are usually sold to farmers in rural areas. This sale does not limit itself to
adult women. Even baby girls have been brought into the mix and are sold to
farmers (Skalla, 2004).  Even though the
Chinese government has tried to battle the problem by highly publicized
arrests, dead sentences and rescues, the problem thrives. Estimates of women
and children being trafficking go into the tens of thousands annually. Despite
the government’s very public campaign against human trafficking, this does not
reflect reality. Many officials still regard wife buying, an ancient tradition,
as normal and often sympathize with the buyer instead of the victims. This can
go as far as even helping the buyer to hide the wife. Escaping is hard, and the
women’s families do not know where their daughters are. A lot of families
return to private investigators as a last resort, but this is not possible for
everyone since their fees are extremely high, often multiple annual salaries
(Skalla, 2004).

4. Legal
Protection

                A. International Law     
                Human
trafficking is both an international crime as well as a human rights violation.
There are many international instruments regulating this offense:

Some of the international
instruments that protect trafficking victims include the International
Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic (1904); the
International Convention for the Suppression of Traffic in Women and Children
(1921); the Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery (1926); the
Forced Labor Convention (1930);  the
International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women of Full Age
(1933); the U.N. Charter (1945); the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(1948); the Geneva Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic of Persons and
the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1950);  the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition
of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institution and Practices Similar to Slavery
(1957); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966); the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
(1979); the Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984); the Convention on the Rights of the
Child (1989); the Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime: Protocol to
Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and
Children 9 and the Protocol Against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air
(2000); and the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts and on the Sale of Children,
Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (2000). (Tiefenbrun & Edwards, 2008,
p. 740-741)

China did not sign the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. China did ratify CEDAW, which grants
reproductive rights in Article 16. The restrictive one child policy violates
this right. China also signed several treaties that gave them international
obligations to protect women and children from trafficking. Yet trafficking
still exists and the number of victims in China is expanding. There is a
problem with the enforcement of these treaties in China and the lack of
assistance from the international community (Tiefenbrun & Edwards, 2008). The
U.S. State Department states that China does not meet the minimum standards for
the elimination of trafficking and is also not making efforts to change this
(2017).

                B. Chinese Law
                Chinese
marriage and inheritance laws are theoretically protecting women and children,
but China also has several laws that specifically address the issue of
trafficking and sexual exploitation. In 1991 the purchase of women was criminalized by
making the abduction and sale different offenses. Prior to this, offenders who
only sold women kidnapped by someone else could not been convicted in court.
Now both the kidnapper as the seller can be prosecuted. In 1992 the first law
that was specifically aimed at women’s rights was launched, the Law on the
Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests. This law criminalizes kidnapping,
trafficking and buying women. The law lacks to name any specific sentences for
these offenses.
The Chinese criminal code prohibits many forms of trafficking, but divers from
international law definitions. Article 240 of the criminal code criminalizes
‘abducting and trafficking of women or children’. Crimes such as forced labour
or forced prostitution are in related articles. Under Chinese law these crimes
are not tied to the purpose of exploitation, which is an element in the
definition in international law. The punishment for crimes under Article 240 are
no less than 10 years of imprisonment and, in particularly serious case, life
imprisonment or the death penalty. The purchase of women or children is
penalized under Article 241 of the criminal code. For this crime the purpose of
exploitation is also not required. Organizing prostitution or seducing someone
into prostitution are stated in Article 358 and 359. Organizing prostitution or
forced prostitution is punishable by five to 10 years in prison or life
imprisonment in serious cases. Seducing or introducing someone to prostitution
is punishable by a maxim of five years in prison or five years or more if the
victim is under the age of 14. Forced labour is penalized under Article 244 and
offenders can be subjected to three to 10 years in prison. In the beginning of
2017 the Supreme People’s Court stated that offenders of such crimes should be
convicted by provisions of combined punishment for several crimes, which
increases the penalties for such crimes (U.S. Department of State, 2017).  In 2016 the Chinese government reported that
the law enforcement investigated 1,004 trafficking cases and convicted 1,756
traffickers, from which 435 were sex traffickers.   
                One
of the biggest complicating factor of China’s battle against trafficking is the
corruption of local officials. These officials often participate in sexual
exploitation of women or take bribes in order to not notify the trafficking.
Because of the cultural implications around women, trafficking is often not
seen as a serious crime. The Chinese government therefore has issues with
combatting this issue on a national level.
Another problem is the way victims are being treated. Prostitution is illegal
in China and officials often have problems distinguishing trafficked women and
women wilfully participating in prostitution. Therefore, victims are often
arrested and prosecuted instead of getting the proper care they need. Foreign
victims are returned to their home countries without any care. Especially North
Korean victims are send back to a country where they will most likely suffer
terrible punishment.

5.
Conclusion    
                The
introduction of the one child policy in China has lead to a decrease in equal
rights for women. The Chinese culture has an imbedded preference for men and
many precautions are being made to make sure that families have a male child.
Baby girls are aborted, killed or sold. If couples do not comply with the one
child policy they face terrible consequences, such as forced abortions, forced
sterilizations, physical violence and psychological intimidation. This has led
to a gender gap in which there are far more men in China than women. Because of
this gender gap, China has a lot of unmarried men. There has been an increase
in forced prostitution and forced marriages. Women from in- and outside the
country are being kidnapped or seduced to leave their homes under false
promises. The number of victims can go into the tens of thousands each year.
Even though there are so many victims, China is not making significant effort
to combat this trafficking epidemic. China has ratified several international
treaties, but is simultaneously breaking some of the rights under these
treaties, such as a woman’s right to reproduction. The U.S. State Department
concluded that China does not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of
trafficking and is also not making efforts to change this. China also has
several national laws that prohibits trafficking and protect women. Despite
this the number of offenders convicted is very low, especially compared to
estimated number of victims. Another complicating factor is the corrupt local
officials. The Chinese attitude towards women becomes painfully obvious in this
problem. Officials often do not see trafficking as a serious offense. The way
victims are treated is also problematic. They are often prosecuted themselves
for crimes committed while being victimized or are being send back to their
home countries where they could face punishment as well.    
                It
is obvious that China has a huge trafficking problem. The change of the one
child policy to a two child policy might decrease some of the demand for prostitution
or bride prices, but it will not fix the problem and a woman’s reproductive rights
are still not being honoured. The Chinese government is lacking in their
approach to combat trafficking. China needs to improve its records on
trafficking and commit to implementing international and national law to combat
trafficking and overcome the population’s conservative view against women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Bouman,
R. A. (2000). China’s Attempt to Promote Domestic Adoptions: How Does China’s
One-Child
                Policy
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Central
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Junhong,
C. (2001). Prenatal Sex Determination and Sex-Selective Abortion in Rural Central
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Kane,
P., & Choi, C. Y. (1999). China’s One Child Family Policy. British Medical Journal, 319(7215),
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Li,
X. (1995). License To Coerce: Violence Against Women, State Responsibility, and
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Lu,
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Tiefenbrun,
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