reproductive health


reproductive health
Reproductive health in contemporary China must be understood in the context of eugenics and birth control. Like population control, eugenics was a taboo subject until the late 1970s when the PRC was about to announce its one-child policy. In 1979, the desire to avoid unnecessary births with genetic diseases was formally articulated and linked with the political claim of the ‘four modernizations’. It was followed in 1980 by the revision of the Marriage Law that prohibited marriages between, or with, people who have genetic diseases or mental illnesses (see Marriage Law of the PRC (1 January 1981) and revisions (2001)). Since 1981, some but not many studies of the effect of birth control on reproductive health have been incorporated into China’s Five-Year Economic Plans. After having practised birth control for about two decades, China passed the Law of the Health of Mothers and Infants (Muyin baorenfa) in 1994, indicating explicitly that where marriage is recognized, forced abortion is allowed.
Although the law also offers a legal basis of women’s right to reproductive health—marriage and pregnancy consultation, prenatal screening and neonatal health—it should also be examined in regard to social context since reform.
Originally called the Eugenics Law, it allows for the abortion of a couple’s unwanted children, especially in rural areas where hospitals may offer services, such as sonograms, to confirm the sex of a foetus. The sex ratio of newborns in China rose from 108.47 males for every 100 females in 1981 to 113 males for every 100 females in 1996. The ratio increases to 130 males for every 100 females with a third child. Also in rural areas, where many women suffer problems brought on by birth control technologies such as intra-uterine devices, medical facilities are still in severe shortage, and the law actually fails to grant them benefits as claimed.
Other related problems include a rising number of unmarried teenage mothers and prostitution. Since economic reform, a large population of women have also moved to the larger cities seeking jobs, yet the law fails to take care of them if they become pregnant when underage or lacking proper registration. The law also fails to deal with actual reproductive health risks such as HIV/AIDS and STIs, which are rising in coastal cities where prostitution has followed a booming economy (see sexuality and behaviour). In short, although China has devised laws, their application in solving the practical problems with respect to women’s reproductive health is another matter, as pointed out at the UN Conference on Women hosted by the PRC in 1995.
KUO WEN-HUA

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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