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Friday, March 12, 2010

Stories of Loss and Love: The shocking truth about China’s treatment of baby girls

The book Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love* by Xinran eloquently and poignantly tells individual stories and uses them to explain the traditional cultural and modern ideological and consumerist forces behind the abortion and killing at birth of girls, and why they are also given away or allowed to die through neglect.

Chapter 3, for example, tells how, when Xinran’s bike got a puncture, she brought it to a woman who ran a small bike repair shop near the radio station in Nanjing where she presented the Words on a Night Breeze programme on women’s issues. They got talking.

The woman told her that before she opened the bike repair shop she had worked as a travelling midwife. Her rate varied for different kinds of birth. For a boy who was a firstborn “I could quote three times the normal rate for that. If the mother was the wife of the eldest son, the birth was very auspicious because it continued the family line, and then it was six times.” And what if it was a girl and the family didn’t want a girl? ‘”If they wanted it put out of the way, you charged sky high”.

Xinran asked her how she killed the girls and the midwife listed three different ways, and then said, ‘”And for women who’d never had a baby boy, just girl after girl after girl until the family were fed up with it, it was simple enough to chuck it in the slops pail”.

Over ten chapters each focusing on different situations where a baby girl was not wanted, Xinran lets us see and feel what it is like to be a woman in China subject to the immense cultural, legal, bureaucratic and ideological pressures that combine to force pregnant women to have their girls aborted, destroyed at birth or neglected or given away.

Any pro-life person who wants to get a feel for the causes of the pressures behind the 100 million missing baby girls needs to read Xinran’s Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother.

* Xinran, Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love, Chatto and Windus, 2010, London.

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