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No women to marry in China, so sex dolls are hugely popular: Mei Fong

Lamat R Hasan | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 5:46 IST

Mei Fong is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who showed the world how dubious China's one-child norm was. The policy, she insists, was framed by China's "rocket scientists", and ended up skewing China's male-female ratio to a horrendous 130 boys to a 100 girls.

Fong's book One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment (Pan MacMillan) was released early last year. It was her first book, and she isn't planning a second yet. And she has enough reason not to. After all, she is not sure if she can step foot in China again, forget about her book selling there.

Fong spent nearly 10 years of her life reporting from China. Reporting China's astonishing growth, a growth that took her to hundreds of manufacturing units, where she heard unbelievable tales of gender disparity.

This was 2003. And it only got worse over the next decade. The one-child norm that was implemented in 1980 was meant to be a shortcut to becoming rich, but ended up being a shortcut which changed the social fabric of China. A China, which even on its own, much like the rest of the world, had seen its birth rate falling from 6 to 3 per household, and didn't quite need this norm.

Now based in the US, Fong talks to Catch about her book, about how messy China's one-child policy was, about how China played with the reproductive cycles of its people, how there there are 30 million surplus males, and how popular sex dolls are becoming in this land of Little Emperors.

Edited excerpts:

LH: How did you get interested in this story? Is there a personal story here?

MF: I started reporting on China's great growth story over a decade ago. Around 2003, I started hearing from a lot of factories that they couldn't hire enough people. Which sounded ridiculous because this was the world's most populous country. What are you talking about?

And I started asking them what's going on? What's happening? Nobody saw that this was a fallout of the one-child policy. I think everyone just imagined that China had a huge workforce. That was just manufacturing, then you start seeing other things.

One kid playing in the playground with six adults hovering around him protectively. That was another aspect of the one child norm.

LH: You noticed this in 2003?

MF: This is a very common sight in China. The one-child policy has been there for 30 plus years, enough to change a generation. So these were the interesting things...

LH: How did this huge gender imbalance happen?

MF: When a policy is launched, when you have to limit the family size, in some cases families, you say alright I am not going to register my daughter, I am not going to hide her, but I am not going to send her to school. I will just save my quota for the boy. This meant a lot of children remained undocumented. They couldn't go to school, they couldn't get treatment, and some people said I am going to send my daughter to an orphanage.

LH: So they weren't killing girls, like in India...

MF: They do. When the policy was launched in 1980 they didn't really have the scanner machines, it was difficult to establish the sex of the foetus, it wasn't popular. This started to become popular in the mid-90s.

In the beginning it was infanticide to some degree, it was neglect, it was abandonment, it was a combination of things. Starting from the mid-1990s when it was easy to tell that it was a girl in the early stage of the pregnancy, then it resulted in abortions.

There was a combination of factors that led to China having the world's largest sex ratio imbalance. I know India has this problem too.

LH: How deep is this gender disparity?

MF: So the world average is 107 boys to 100 girls - that's considered normal gender parity.

In India, where there is a preference for boys, the average is 110 boys to 100 girls. In China, where there is both boy preference and family size limitation, then 116 boys are born to a 100 girls, in some parts this disparity goes up to 130.

It's much, much higher. It is huge. The end result is there are 30 million surplus males. That's almost the population of Canada.

First published: 19 January 2017, 8:42 IST
 
Lamat R Hasan @LamatAyub

Bats for the four-legged, can't stand most on two. Forced to venture into the world of homo sapiens to manage uninterrupted companionship of 16 cats, 2 dogs and counting... Can read books and paint pots and pay bills by being journalist.

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