Thirty-five years after China imposed the one-child policy to control its booming population, a city is fining women who have children out of wedlock.
The law in the city of Wuhan in central Hubei province, which was dug up by the popular English-language Chinese news blog Ministry of Tofu, allows for fining unmarried mothers up to 80,000 yuan, which is about $13,000. In a draft of Wuhan’s city ordinance, Article 26 states, “those who give birth and fail to provide valid identification from her partner,” or a mistress who “knowingly bear the child of someone who has a spouse,” will be subject to paying the 80,000 yuan “social fostering fee,” which is in compliance with the province’s population and family planning laws.
The new law has been interpreted by most as a deterrent from participating in adulterous relationships as well as discouraging childbirth. The “social fostering fee” is also a measure featured in the one-child policy, fining families that violate the limit. While many who are wealthy see the penalty more as a small fee to pay, for the average person in Hubei province the social fostering fee is almost three times the annual income.
The People’s Daily polled readers and found that among the 4,127 online participants; only 18.4 percent supported the regulation. The survey also found that 12.9 percent of people were also concerened that the law would create an increase in abortions or child abandonment, which, as was seen recently, is already an issue of concern. In the opinion of 23.1 percent, the fine is unfair because it only holds women responsible for paying fines for out-of-wedlock or extra-marital childbirths, while men are virtually off the hook.
Shang Chongsheng, a sociology professor at Wuhan University, told Xiaoxiang Morning Post that abortion and child abandonment will rise if the new regulation is enforced. In addition, she said it will criminalize mothers who cannot afford the fine. “If the unmarried mother is in financial difficulty and aware of the fine, she may choose to flee, hide and evade [the fee].” Many of those polled agreed, with 45.7 percent saying the fine is only a deterrent “targeted at poor people.”
Many netizens on China’s Twitter-like social media platform Weibo spoke up on the issue, many of them finding the fine sexist.
“Mistresses, okay, fine. But fining unmarried mothers is simply too unbelievable. Why do you think you can deprive women of their child-bearing right? If a woman does not want to get married and only wants to have a baby, why can’t she? What gives you the right to fine her?” one user posted.
“My reason for objection is simply that bearing a child out of wedlock should never be a crime and deserves no penalty,” another said.