China's One-Child Policy Reversal Hasn't Ended The State's Control Over Women's Bodies

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Nearly three years ago, China ended its one-child policy, increasing the limit to two. Now, they're considering discarding the child-bearing limits all together. The move is causing a lot of debate in the country because these potentially modernizing policies haven't meant the end of controlling women's bodies in China.

"To put it bluntly, the birth of a baby is not only a matter of the family itself, but also a state affair," the ruling party's newspaper People’s Daily wrote this week, via the The New York Times. But as the Times reported, young Chinese women are making many of the same decisions as their American counterparts.

In short, both groups of women are delaying childbirth because of rising education costs and to take time to pursue their careers. This means, despite the change in birth limits, the number of young people in China isn't rising fast enough to support a growing aging population.

The easement of birth limits hasn't resulted in a utopia of women's reproductive liberation either. In June, the Guardian reported that the Jiangxi province ordered that women seeking an abortion after 14 weeks must get "signed approval from three medical professionals" before they can access the procedure.

The newspaper reported that this is to help prevent selective-sex abortions (an illegal procedure), but that women are still concerned. "What is the purpose and basis of this policy? The reproductive rights of women in this country seem to be a joke," a Weibo user wrote, according to the Guardian.

Furthermore, it looks like the possibility of getting a divorce in China is becoming more fraught. According to a report by Business Insider, at least four Chinese provinces are requiring a divorce quiz in an attempt to keep couples together. It's a two-page test with fill-in-the-blank, short answer, and essay sections.

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Another reform for women's liberation that hasn't quite panned out is domestic violence prevention. The Chinese government estimated that 1 in 4 married women experience domestic violence in the country, according to the Washington Post. Sadly, the rates of domestic violence could be even higher.

In March 2016, domestic violence was outlawed in China after decades of organizing by feminist activists. One, Lu Pin, wrote about her experiences in organizing for domestic violence prevention for Amnesty International. "So far, the road was built by women, victims and survivors, exchanging their reputations and physical bodies for each new policy and each new legislation in each province," she wrote. "Their demand for change, till this day, have yet to garner a satisfactory answer from their government."

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As Lu outlined, there hasn't been strong support for domestic violence survivors to leave their abusers. The women's right organization, Equality, found that 149 people were granted access to the 2,000 facilities set up to house such survivors. "Eligibility requirements are harsh, while regulations at the centers are strict and services are inadequate," Lu wrote.

Furthermore, in 2017, the Washington Post reported that restraining orders were not "being properly implemented" for domestic violence survivors who came forward. Despite this relatively new law, this means women are still at risk, and this is only adding to the number of areas where women's rights activists must continue to advocate for change.