Trafficked boys in China

// 5 April 2009

In case we need a reminder why feminism might conceivably benefit everyone (not just women) look no further than this very sad New York Times article. It focuses on the increasing incidence of abduction of small boys in China. The article focuses on a number of cases in Shenzen and around the industrial areas of rural southern China.

The desire to have a boy – both culturally and economically imposed – is so strong for some that they resort to ‘buying’ sons from gangs of traffickers who are snatching toddlers and children. Boys as young as 9 months are taken from outside their houses, sometimes snatched out of the arms of their siblings as they’re playing.

“If you have only girls, you don’t feel right inside,” said Ms. Zhen, who has one child, an 11-year-old son. “You feel your status is lower than everyone else.”

“A girl is just not as good as a son,” said Mr. Su, 38, who has a 14-year-old daughter but whose biological son died at 3 months. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have. If you don’t have a son, you are not as good as other people who have one.”

You can read the remainder of the article here.

Comments From You

Amy Clare // Posted 6 April 2009 at 10:41 am

Thanks for drawing attention to this; I am often frustrated when people blame China’s one child policy, when in fact the real problem is deeply ingrained patriarchal customs. A one child policy is actually a good way of tackling overpopulation (something like it ought to be adopted worldwide imo), and if boys and girls were equally valued, consequences such as these terrible abductions, and the infanticide of thousands of baby girls, would not occur. It would be interesting to hear from women’s rights groups in China and whether there is any campaigning going on to change these ‘traditional’ attitudes. The article didn’t mention any but I guess it wasn’t written from a feminist perspective.

I have to note that in the West many expectant couples/mothers still seem much more overjoyed at the prospect of a son than a daughter… it isn’t as extreme obviously but there is a lot of bs touted around about ‘carrying on the family name’ and so on.

Lynne Miles // Posted 6 April 2009 at 4:12 pm

To be fair, I’d say it’s the combined context of the one child policy and patriarchal customs …. even with patriarchal attitudes, in the absence of the policy people could just keep going till they have their own sons.

Also the article mentions the economic benefit of having sons – since custom dictates that daughters go to live with their husband’s family when they marry, a couple with only a daughter are faced with the prospect of old age and no support. Admittedly patriarchal attitudes frame all that, but it’s not (simply) a direct result of parents attitudes.

What ever the cause, though, it’s desperately sad. Those poor little boys.

I was also interested to note the fate of girls mentioned in the article… apparently they can be snatched and sold to orphanages, who stand to make a profit by selling them to rich westerners looking to adopt. So we need to look to our own culture as well…. for the girls who don’t end up getting ‘picked’ out of the orphanage, apparently a life of poverty and prostitution often awaits them.

rita // Posted 6 April 2009 at 6:22 pm

At one point in time i watched a documentary on Tv, i think it might have been on Channel 4 about stolen children in china. What i remember was that some of the girls who concieved out of marriage had a problem because it was not accepted. Some of the girls had to go into hiding till they had these babies and then gave them away. I think this was because that was the one child they had to have then if they got married to someone else who wanted a baby, what would happen. Then i think they had a problem of where by if one had more than one child they had to pay a certain amount of money to the government , which if i remember, so many could not afford and would bring debt into the family which was impossible. Then there was that problem of poverty where some actually sold the babies, then i remember a case where they had the elderly rich couples who wanted girls who would look after them as they aged so they had to buy. It was a mixture of so many things but i remember girls not being valued more than boys. I wish i could watch that documentary again, it was poweful stuff and one could not help but feel helpless at the end of it. There was a kind of ruthlessness about it all. Then again, i might not want to watch it again soon.

Jackie Bather // Posted 8 April 2009 at 7:25 pm

I think that this is an extremely ingrained problem to attempt to tackle, with so many cross-cultural overtones. Are there any Chinese women who feel able to comment on this article, to provide some insight on the issue ?

Lynne Miles // Posted 8 April 2009 at 8:13 pm

I second that request!

Wing // Posted 8 April 2009 at 8:23 pm

Agreeing with Amy Clare, admittedly a lot of parents seem to be joyed with news of a boy in the West. Thinking about how much easier it is for a boy and how women are constantly portrayed as less than human, you can feel the desire yourself… A boy is defined by more things than his youth and beauty. You don’t have to worry about his safety as much. Also it’s the general stigma a society attaches to women. Something about having rounder shoulders and wider hips, these ‘human beings’ being deemed a burden and less stately. Obviously in some cultures like China this feeling as a result of the patriarchy is more tragically pronounced. Again it is patriarchy and the value it places on each gender.

Anne Onne // Posted 9 April 2009 at 12:48 am

Boys are definitely preferred in the West, too. You hear the narrarive that men who are in a ‘female dominated household’ are expected to lament that they’ve got daughters, and that they can’t do ‘father and son things’ with their girls. Women are expected to want girls, but I feel it’s to a lesser extent. Certainly, there isn’t the same narrative that having a house filled with testosterone* and lots of men is effacing of her femaleness or an extension of her worth. At most, it’s supposed to be less desirable because men won’t clean.

Different societies treat this issue differently, but it’s all an expression of the belief that women are less useful, or less important than men.

* society’s wording, not mine. I hate how a couple of hormones that everyone has are so associated by people with everything that is gender performance. As if we’re literally our hormone levels.

Laura // Posted 9 April 2009 at 11:31 am

To be honest I’m not sure how much I buy the idea that boys are dramatically preferred in the west. Certainly it used to be the case, but now…. if I think about the people I know who have or want kids, more talk about wanting girls than boys, and generally people are getting more open to doing ‘father and son things’ between father and daughter (certainly my own father used to sword fight with me and later taught me how to fix the car!). Although I suspect this may be spread differentially by class, I see it spreading through society and I would definitely dispute the idea that there is still a strong preference for boys – don’t most people tend to want one of each? And if they only have one, don’t most people convince themselves how lucky they are to have that one?

Kez // Posted 9 April 2009 at 11:44 am

Hmm, well I am not so sure there is such a pronounced preference for boys in the West. Yes, there is a certain element of that, particularly inasmuch as men are sometimes socially expected to want a son to “carry on their name”, play football with, yadda yadda yadda (although this is not always necessarily the case) but I am not sure it is as strong as some commenters here are suggesting. Both men in a houseful of women and women in a houseful of men will tend to express – generally jokingly – a feeling of being outnumbered by the opposite sex, and women will often express a wish for a daughter (admittedly this is often couched in terms of someone to dress up and go shopping with, a bit of a disappointment if you end up with a daughter like me who cannot bear shopping).

I have two children, boy and girl, one born quite recently, and I mix with a lot of other parents and parents-to-be, and I can honestly say I haven’t been aware of any elements of boys being preferred or valued more highly. Admittedly this is not necessarily something which people would openly discuss, but I have not even seen a hint of it.

Jehenna // Posted 19 April 2009 at 9:40 am

Sorry to come in so late, I had trouble finding the reference again.

Not sure the research is sound, but it is an interesting point of view.

c.c. // Posted 5 September 2009 at 1:18 pm

Well, i’m from China…i think because china is a agriculture country…and it’s such a cultural thing. men can work very hard in the fields ; men carry the family names; etc..dadadadada..confucius said to be not filial, not have sons is the worst one..many people are still so poor, they are seeking chances to get better jobs in the city..but it’s too expensive living in the city so they choose living in the suburb. lots of families don’t send their kids to school when they suppose to go to what they do is wondering around the street, and it is very easy to get abducted…it is very sad because i’m a mom too..i can imagine the feeling you lose your kid…local policemen doesn’t help much…those people stealing a kid just for several hundred US dollars but they broke everybody’s heart…and then they got some informations about somebody needs kids, so they sell the kids and told the buyer this kid is from their relatives, but their relatives is too poor or haven’t got married yet, don’t want the kid…the family who buy the kid think they did a great thing..but…because the law system about adoption is so poor, that’s a large reason…

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