After over 35 years of mass sterilization and forced abortion, the Chinese government has finally abandoned its notorious one-child policy.
The announcement, made on Thursday by the State run news agency Xinhua News, comes after decades of vocal criticism, both outside of the country and within, of the party’s coercive birth-control policy.
The government’s new ‘two-child policy’ is designed to "to improve the balanced development of population'' and to deal with an aging population, Xinhua News reported.
China currently has one of the oldest populations in the world, with about 30% of population over the age of 50. It also has one of the biggest gender disparities: in 2004 approximately 121 males were born for every 100 girls.
Oxford demographer Stuart Gietel-Basten, one of the most outspoken critics of the policy, celebrated the announcement.
“I’m shaking to be honest,” he said in an interview with the Guardian. “It’s one of those things that you have been working on and saying for years and recommending they should do something and it finally happened.”
Gietel-Basten says the decision is smart policy: “From a political, pragmatic perspective, loosening the policy is good for the party but also it is a good thing for individual couples who want to have that second child. It is a kind of win-win for everybody”.
Others said that the announcement didn’t go far enough, and called on the government to totally abandon its population control policies.
“Even if people are allowed to have two children, what if they want to have three children or more?”, asked Liang Zhongtang, a demographer at the Shanghai Academy of Social Science.
“What if unmarried women want to have their own children? At the end of the day, it’s about women’s reproductive rights and freedoms.”
Liang called on the Communist party to completely dismantle its unpopular and outdated family planning rules.
China’s notorious one-child policy has left in its wake a deep wound in the lives of millions. The policy is estimated to have prevented about 400 million births. Couples who violated the one-child policy faced a variety of punishments, from fines and the loss of employment to forced abortions.
In one of the most shocking recent cases of human rights abuses related to the once-child policy, a woman who was seven months pregnant was abducted by family planning officials in Shaanxi province in 2012 and forced to have an abortion.
According to the Chinese Health Ministry in 2014, doctors had performed 336 million abortions and 196 million sterilisations since 1971 and inserted 403 million intrauterine devices.
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