There are 34.9 million more men than women in China, where are the women disappearing to?

The results of the seventh census have just been released. The latest data show that the national population totals 141.78 million, of which 723.34 million are male and 688.44 million are female, with 34.9 million more males than females.

In terms of the sex ratio at birth, the data dropped by 6.8 compared to 2010 (the sixth census), reaching 111.3 (111.3 male babies for every 100 female babies), but there is still a gap compared to the normal value of 103-107 set by the United Nations for the sex ratio at birth.

This also means that the gender structure is improving. However, the specter of intentional fetal sex selection and the preference for sons over daughters still hovers over us and requires a change in the mindset and awareness of more people in an effort to break this down.

For those of you reading this, a higher or lower sex ratio may be just a number.

What we want to talk about today is the people behind the data. The babies, the mothers, the daughters who struggle with their fate and the need for a more gender-balanced society.

Now please join us to listen to their not-so-distant cries.


The Disappeared Girls

When it comes to the imbalance of gender ratio, I believe everyone will think of the word “son preference”. The phrase “boy preference” is easy to say, but behind it lies a bloody reality: baby girls who are deprived of their right to live.

When we look at the data on the sex ratio in Chilp, we are likely to forget one detail: the data is only on the population after legal birth registration.

Yet both in terms of research, and in terms of social reality, it is likely that tens of millions of baby girls in China are disappearing before they are even born because of artificial sex selection.

One of these illegal methods of sex determination is “blood testing”. The so-called “sent blood test” is an illegal identification of the sex of a fetus in the early stages of pregnancy by black agents who use special equipment to transfer venous blood drawn from pregnant women for testing outside of China.

Even as early as 2000, China promulgated regulations prohibiting fetal sex determination and selective abortion. However, this did not stop people who were frantically seeking children.

In 2015, Yongjia, Zhejiang Province, the largest “blood test” case in China was solved, involving more than 50,000 pregnant women, distributed throughout the country. In Yongjia, Zhejiang, the sex ratio of newborns was as high as 136.

In 2019, Shenzhen Luohu Customs uncovered a smuggling case of a 12-year-old girl. She carried 142 blood samples of pregnant women used to identify the sex of the fetus in her school bag.

In 2020, Xiamen City, Fujian Province concluded a case of “blood testing” in which the defendant illegally organized 386 pregnant women to identify the sex of their fetuses, and many of them had abortions after learning the results.

Such vicious incidents are still going on.

If you don’t believe me, just open a search engine. You will find that it is too easy to find a blood test agency.


The Controlled Women

On one side, there are illegal agencies that perform early abortions, and on the other side, there are desperate mothers who will do anything to have a boy.

On mother-baby forums, posts asking for a formula to have a boy continue to be endless, with mothers-to-be saying helplessly, “I don’t want to suffer through abortion anymore.”

On short video platforms, 17,000 mothers-to-be begged for a baby online under the #PickupBoy topic, telling of the price they paid to have a boy.

“Born to the sixth child to give birth to a son, since then sealed belly, never again!”

“I had a son at the age of 38, and this is my eighth child.”

The “boy for a boy” pretense is being used by desperate mothers-to-be to make a profit. Although it has been regulated several times, the e-commerce platform can still be easily searched for all kinds of unreliable drugs that guarantee the birth of a son.

“Regulate alkalinity and add a little prince”.

“Have a male son, make a good character”.

When you see these mothers who have been brainwashed by “son preference”, you will “mourn their misfortune and be angry with them”, but many people may not think about why they want to have a boy so much.

The answer may be a bit surprising: a “patriarchal” mother is often also a victim of “patriarchy”.

In 2016, a study by Renmin University of China found that the inequality women experience in their daily lives makes them more obsessed with having a boy. This finding is consistent with research on patriarchy in India.

All else being equal, the prevalence of boy preference was 60 percent higher among women who performed the majority of household tasks than among the reference group. The prevalence of boy preference was nearly 30% higher for women who experienced or heard about a close friend experiencing domestic violence than for the reference group.

When a woman chooses to “prefer sons over daughters,” the biggest influence on her perception comes from her closest relatives and friends.

One of the most popular short videos on the topic of #PickupBabyBoy is about finally being relieved from the pressure of her mother-in-law. The comment section is full of envious voices.

The more patriarchal relatives and friends are, the more women in this environment also value having a boy. The incidence of boy preference in this population was 214% higher than the reference group.

Under pressure from their in-laws and husbands, many women choose to “have a son before they seal their belly”. It’s not that the in-laws have a throne to inherit, it’s that they can’t get by without a son.

Researchers from the Central University of Finance and Economics found that having a boy as the first child and eventually having a boy significantly improved women’s nutritional levels and family decision-making power. This finding was particularly evident in rural Chinese women.

Having a boy as the first child had a positive impact on rural women’s nutritional intake, as having a boy increased protein intake by 2.3%.

The birth of a son is a “great achievement”, while the birth of a son is a “cold shoulder”. From nutrition to care, mothers who have sons may receive better care.

The mother with a son is not a line or drama in the court drama, but the reality of the real existence of helplessness.


The despised ones

In the chain of imbalanced sex ratio, there are also those girls who are called “Zhaodi”.

From birth, they are the undesired children in their families.

From 2010 to 2016, researchers studied families in 25 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in China. First-born boys fared better than first-born girls in terms of weight, height, experience of illness in the past month, and self-assessed health status. This difference was more pronounced for girls in rural areas and younger girls.

In other words, “son preference” does harm the health status of girls.

The free lunch program in many parts of China requires that children must finish their meals at school. If allowed to bring back, many girls’ parents force them to bring eggs and milk to their older brothers.

From 2010 to 2016, a researcher studied families spread across 25 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in China. The healthy development of first-born boys and first-born girls during childhood (5 to 15 years) was tracked in families with first-born boys and first-born girls.

Specifically, the differential treatment begins already during breastfeeding.

Girls in this survey were significantly shorter in breastfeeding than boys by 1.097 months. A study from the University of Southern California for India came to similar conclusions: influenced by gender preferences, boys received more family care, longer nursing periods and higher nutritional inputs.

Patriarchy” also occurs in the way children are handled when they are sick.

When a child has a minor illness, families are 3.1% less likely to take a girl to the doctor and 2.6% more likely to give a girl the medicine she needs to treat herself. In addition, for families with commercial health insurance, families are 10.7 percent more likely to buy insurance for boys than for girls.

3.1%, 2.6%, 10% …… To the statistics, these numbers don’t seem like much. But let’s not forget that in a patriarchal family, it’s all 100%.

Behind every number is a child who is born unloved because of her gender as female. They are hidden, neglected, and even wither away because they cannot be properly cared for.

And all of the above is the story of what is happening in the present.

The sex ratio imbalance first came to attention in 1982, and during that time the government has been making continuous efforts to combat and manage it by banning non-medically necessary fetal sex determination and sex-selective artificial pregnancy.

In more than two decades, changes have been quietly taking place. Families that value sons over daughters and the ill effects that follow gradually weave a web of absurd social realities.

Dr. Liu Yanmai from the Department of Sociology at Wuhan University estimates that with the gender imbalance, the number of bachelors (meaning unmarried men over the age of 30) in rural China is around 20 million – even this conservative estimate is already about equal to the national population of an Australia. If you average 20 million people across China’s 680,000 administrative villages, there are nearly 30 bachelors in each village.

And these intractable marriage problems are like butterflies flapping their wings, likely to bring a series of social problems.

In the article “The Butterfly Effect in the County”, Mei Snap documented that the imbalance in the sex ratio has caused young men in their hometowns to look to local married women because they cannot find women of the right age, leading to the breakup of previously married families and eventually bringing a large number of “single fathers with children alone” to struggle for survival.

A survey on the imbalance of sex ratio in 100 villages points out that the bachelor crisis brought about by the imbalance of sex ratio is likely to aggravate a series of social problems such as buying marriage, fraudulent marriage, trafficking in women, sexual crimes, etc., and bring discrimination to the older single unmarried male individuals and their families.

There are no winners in an unbalanced sex ratio. A new storm is brewing, oppressing not only the women who are struggling to have children, but also the men who cannot be seen.

Being in the middle of the storm, we can’t help but ask.

At what point will the twenty-plus year imbalance in the sex ratio end?