Peng Peiyun, the former Chinese Minister of Family Planning and current vice chairwoman of the national Legislature, said the number of female babies who are being abandoned in China is increasing at an alarming rate.
The country’s high rates of child abandonment are primarily due to China’s strict rules on family size, and cultural misogyny leads families to value male children over female. Ninety welfare institutions in China accept children.
These orphanages are overcrowded and do not have room for the increasing number of abandoned children. Chinese living in urban areas are limited to one child per family; rural residents may have a second child if the first one is a girl or is handicapped. Couples desperate for a male child often choose to abandon a daughter so that they might try again for a son.
Abandoned children are more prevalent than orphans in China, and most are girls or are handicapped. Peng said the police need to put an end to the sale of girls as brides. These young girls get sold to poor men, who often live in remote areas where potential wives are few.
Peng also urged hospitals and police to make sure that all births are registered. Parents trying to give up their baby girl for adoption must be screened to make sure that they are not “trading in” their girl in order to have a boy.
A law that went into effect on April 1 has lowered the parental adoption age from thirty-five to thirty, allowing more adoptions to take place. In China and abroad, more parents are being given the opportunity to adopt. Twelve countries participate in adoption from China. Of these, the United States and Canada adopt the most children. In 1998 Americans adopted 4,194 Chinese children and Canadians adopted 832. Peng hopes the new provision and foreign involvement will help give some of these abandoned children a “normal” family life.