Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Favoring a son over a daughter must end

By Zhang Zhouxiang (China Daily) Updated: 2016-05-21 08:05

How deeply embedded is the old evil of "favoring a son over a daughter" in some people's minds?

The recent popular TV drama, Ode of Joy, tells of such a mindset. The heroine, 30-year-old Fan Shengmei who works in Shanghai, spends half her salary supporting her parents and her brother's family. Under pressure from her parents, she pays for an apartment for her brother, even though she doesn't have one of her own and shares a rented apartment with two girlfriends. When her brother beats somebody up and has to pay compensation to his victim, she is the one that has to fork up the cash.

She is an excellent employee in the human resources department in her company and gets quite a good salary. Yet the exploitation of her by her family means she would not be able to survive without the help of her friends.

The show has been a huge success, with viewers nationwide discussing how they would help her. The actress, Jiang Xin, even jokingly said on her micro blog that she received extra income this month because so many people were trying to send her gift money to help the character she played.

People can relate to the drama because there are so many similar incidents in reality. Fan is one of the millions of girls exploited by their blood families, who mobilize all kinds of resources for their sons.

Search "favoring sons over daughters" online and you find as many as 10,000 cases like Fan's. On Zhihu, a domestic real-name online community discussing daily lives, there is a special forum that has so far collected 600 real life stories about woman being exploited in such a way by their families.

The topics "how to help Fan" and "families like Fan's" have been among the hottest topics discussed on social media recently.

During the Spring Festival this year, reporters from China Central Television conducted a survey in Northwest China's Shaanxi province, and found that most parents ask for gift money of over 100,000 yuan ($15,333) from those who wish to marry their daughters. "It is almost like selling the daughter", as one netizen commented. Yet the parents continue the practice because they want to support their sons with the money.

Worse are those who sell their daughter openly. A woman surnamed Wang from Chongqing in Southwest China was sentenced to four years in prison for selling two of her babies on the day they were born, both were girls.

And sad to say, the girls that are exploited by their parents belong to a "luckier" group, because they at least survived gender selection. It remains a quite rampant practice in some underdeveloped regions to find out the gender of the embryo and abort if it is female. As a result of this, the gender ratio of males to females among newborns has been as high as 1.21 from 2004 to 2008.

Though the gap in the gender ratio has fallen a little in the past several years, the ratio remains 1.13, which is much higher than the natural ratio would be. Behind this bloody figure are millions of girls who were deprived of the opportunity of life because of their gender.

Even today, when the high male-female ratio becomes a serious social problem, media outlets and officials ask: "What to do when so many men cannot find wives?" They might not realize it, but they worry about the lack of females while some do not care for females at all. That's rather ironical and shows how deeply the mindset "male over female" is rooted in our society.

It is time for this mindset to change.

The author is a writer with China Daily.

(China Daily 05/21/2016 page5)

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