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UPDATED: June 24, 2013 NO. 26 JUNE 27, 2013
Should Unmarried Mothers Be Fined?


Wuhan, the capital city of central China's Hubei Province, recently published a draft regulation stating that parents of children born out of wedlock would be fined.

Accordingly, an unmarried woman who cannot provide the ID certificate of her partner, or who knowingly bears the child of someone who already has a spouse, must pay the government for social care.

The issuing of this regulation has triggered much debate among the public. Does it accord with China's laws and regulations? What are reasonable and effective measures to deal with unmarried childbirth?

Some people believe the regulation could serve a good purpose, and help keep the childbirth rate of "the other woman" low. Meanwhile, others are worried that the new policy may lead to more cases of abortions and infant abandonment, as single mothers have long been stigmatised in Chinese society. Traditional views can make single mothers feel embarrassed and helpless.

With Chinese society becoming increasingly diversified, some people think it is acceptable to have kids out of wedlock. The following are excerpts of opinions on the issue:

Liu Zhijun (Global Times): Today, the overall tendency demands more relaxed control over childbirth and more tolerance for women's rights. To announce such a regulation at this moment is setting up a value judgment against single mothers. It's quite doubtful whether this regulation is feasible, and based on the current situation, it will barely reach any set goals. Instead, it might result in a series of unexpected consequences, such as increasing cases of abortion and baby abandonment.

The worst part of this regulation is its disrespect to the right of childbirth and particularly to women's rights. Let us first put moral issues aside and focus on the topic of childbirth out of wedlock. Generally speaking, unmarried mothers are in nature the same as ordinary single mothers. To charge so-called "compensation fees" on the latter for the practice of childbirth has nothing to do with population control. It is imposing legal marriage as a restraint on women before they want to bear a child. As for those who don't want to go into marriage, but want to give birth to a child, they will be deprived of the right to have kids.

Every woman has the right to bear children. Around the world, many countries have already adjusted to the existence of unmarried mothers.Social development is expected to push China toward a state of more tolerance and openness. We are expecting to see more women unwilling to get married, but willing to have children. Their right of childbirth and freedom of choosing how to do so must be respected.

Family planning is one of China's basic national policies. It is a necessary planning and policy arrangement, but it's improper for it to take population control as its core objective. It should be revised as something to seek balance between population, economy, society, as well as resources and environment.

Relevant authorities in Wuhan responded to the criticism by claiming that it will solicit "advice" on the draft, and that the article is subject to change. This is an active response to public questioning.

Yu Shaoxiang (www.china.org.cn): Implementation of the regulation will be quite difficult. For example, how can you judge whether the unmarried mother knows the man for whom she bears a child has another spouse? Besides, to charge a "social compensation fee" will surely lead to more cases of abortion and abandoned babies. Worse still, if the mother is living in a difficult situation, she might choose to run away or even sell her baby. The regulation is not helping to solve social problems, as relevant authorities have claimed, but is producing more social conflicts, which will be even more difficult to deal with.

To curb the number of "mistresses" and control childbirth among unmarried mothers, authorities should not depend on simple and rough methods such as fines. Wuhan's draft regulation is more evidence of local government arbitrariness in collecting fees. Family planning is one of China's national policies, but for so many years, many local governments, instead of trying to tackle the problem at its roots, are only interested in fining families for breaking relevant regulations. Moreover, it's still unknown who is supervising the huge amount of amercement and who is using the money.

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