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Bioethics in Law — Read chapter in the book as stated. Argue relating to ethical issue(s) Essay Example

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4Bioethics in Law

Female Infanticide in China

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Female infanticide refers to the deliberate killing of infant girls because of the preference attached to male counterparts as well as the low value attached to females. This phenomenon remains a serious concern in many countries, the worst hit being China and India. Just to reflect on this practice historically, it is important to note that female infanticide existed in China even before the formation of the People’s Republic in the year 1949. It was largely condemned in the 1950s through to 1970s. The slowdown of female deaths after the foundation of the People’s Republic was enhanced by strong government’s action to modify customs and other traditions it viewed retrogressive. However, female infanticide escalated in the 1980s. Scholars and academicians associated this with the introduction of one-child policy in 1979 by the government to check the rapidly increasing population. Penalties were imposed in case a couple flouted the dictates of the policy by way of wage cuts and denial of social services access by second born babies upfront (Campbell 2003).

Some statistics in connection with Female infanticide in China

According to UNICEF reports released annually: over a million female children are abandoned annually in China; in 2007, there were 17 million orphans on the minimum side, below the of 17 in China; girls in China are twice as likely to die during their first year after birth as their male counterparts ; the death rate of baby girls during their first year after birth is thrice higher in the rural than in the urban areas; the risk of dying is thrice higher for second girls than first girls; second girls die two times higher during their first week of life than boys; 95% of neglected minors in rural areas do not live in government orphanages; less than half of China’s orphans access state subsidies; single parents who intend to remarry abandon their children in order to bear another child with their newly found partner; in 1995, there were 40,000 orphanages in China; in 2009, there was a total of 3001 orphans adopted from China by Americans (Zastrow 2010).

Responsible Factors for women Infanticide in China

Researchers attribute the large scale female infanticide in China to a couple of interplaying factors: the culture of preferring boys to girls, worsened by the low socioeconomic attitude towards women; rapidly increasing sex determination technology for fetuses; one child policy; and finally, the high rate drop in fertility levels, making the outcome of every single birth even more indispensable (Lipman and Harrell 1990). Chinese culture dictates that when a girl marries she has to cease staying with her parents. She entirely becomes permanent member of her husband’s family. This has increased preference for sons among many parents look after them when they grow old. A boy child is regarded as the best pension or insurance for Chinese peasants (Joseph 2010).

The one child policy that was introduced by the Chinese government in 1979 aggravated the situation. Initially the practice was common in poverty prone areas, but with the introduction of this policy, even the wealthy entrenched this cultural construction. Notable elements of the policy included encouragement towards couples to marry late and the consequential late childbearing. The policy limited urban couples to bearing and raising one child only while rural counterparts were allowed utmost two children. This occasioned female infanticide (Mann 2011). Worse still, was the advent of prenatal sex determination technology. This has occasioned sex-selective abortions also known as female feticide. Amniocentesis, ultrasound technology and other prenatal sex selection technologies are readily available in health centres in China.

Consequences of Female infanticide in China

As a result of female infanticide, we are talking of over 25 million Chinese men who currently face “brides’ crisis”. Where do they get women to marry? They are left with the option of importing brides. Commercial sex trade is quite selling in China. Women and girls are trafficked across borders to China in large numbers for sexual exploitation. The thirst for women is so great that the slave trader cartels are forming to bring in foreign women. Female abductions and kidnappings in the surrounding countries are on the rise, just to satisfy the demand in China.

Most female births go unreported. Even if girl children are unregistered rather than being killed, the trend of gender bias is one that will reduce their opportunities severely in life. If a couple hides the birth of a female child, she will not be registered and will in consequence lack legal existence. The child will not enjoy state’s privileges such as medical care, education and additional state services. More disturbing is the fact that even in the event of a Chinese infant girl surviving feticide and adopted, she is likely to land in orphanages that are way below quality living standards. Chinese public are usually in deplorable states with poor sanitation and hygiene.

Remedies to counter women infanticide in China

China has taken some remarkable legal measures to fight the vice of female infanticide and discriminatory termination of female fetuses. She has enacted the Marriage Law as well as Women’s Protection Law, both of which criminalize female infanticide. In more specific terms, the Women’s Protection Law has gone a mile further to prohibit discrimination against those women that bear female babies. Maternal Health Care Law enacted in 1994 strictly banned the use of technology that identified the sex of a foetus.

The civil society groups have since launched campaigns to entrench gender equality with more emphasis on protecting the girl child. They are supporting girl-only families economically, in the countryside. Equally crucial, is raising awareness amongst the population on the equal importance of both genders. In the long run, women will become equally valuable as men, hence down scaling baby girl massacre or stamping it out completely (Kidd and Richter 2003).

Challenges that face implementation of women infanticide prevention strategies

Although the Chinese government has shown some commitment towards downscaling female infanticide, She is not about to abandon the one-child policy in the recent future. 2050 is way too far for this kind of a controversial policy. China has admitted that it is one factor fuelling the practice. By the time we get to 2050, the damages to female fetuses will be alarming (Mungello 2008). Although the law criminalizes the use of ultrasound machines, and other prenatal sex determination technologies, it is a fact that they are still in use by clinicians, especially in the countryside. This, combined with the one child policy that is still in force renders female infanticide reduction strategies largely ineffectual (Mungello 2008). United States sometimes back fielded a resolution at the U.N.’s Commission regarding the Status of Women. This resolution entailed elimination of female infanticide. The resolution was however turned down as it was opposed by a number of countries, chief among them, China and India (Greenberg, Bruess and Conklin 2011).


The principle of gender equality should be widely promoted via the mass media to desist from discriminative gender preference. This equality should also be emphasized in specific social and economic policies in order to cushion the basic rights of the girl child. Government laws criminalizing application of prenatal sex identification techniques against medical doctrines should be enforced to the letter, and those who flout them should be brought to book. The campaigns geared towards protecting women and children from kidnappings or slave trade should be strengthened holistically.


Female infanticide is a disastrous manifestation of female discrimination that pervades societies across globe. Advanced and educated societies perpetrate the practice as well. Efforts to stamp it out completely are quite elusive. To deal with this vice squarely, location-specific as well as cultural factors accounting for the practice should be keenly factored in.


Campbell, S. A. S. (2003). Female infanticide in China and India: a comparative study. Thesis (M.A.)—University of Hong Kong, 2004.

Greenberg, J. S., Bruess, C. E., & Conklin, S. C. (2011). Exploring the dimensions of human sexuality. Sudbury, Mass, Jones and Bartlett.

Joseph, W. A. (2010). Politics in China: an introduction. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Kidd, J., & Richter, F.-J. (2003). Fighting corruption in Asia: causes, effects, and remedies. London u.a, World Scientific.

Lipman, J. N., & Harrell, S. (1990). Violence in China: essays in culture and counterculture. Albany, State University of New York Press.

Mann, S. (2011). Gender and sexuality in modern Chinese history. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Mungello, D. E. (2008). Drowning girls in China: female infanticide since 1650. Lanham, Md, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Zastrow, C. (2010). Introduction to social work and social welfare: empowering people. Belmont, CA, Brooks/Cole.