A culture that has flourished over thousands of years, China (just like many other countries who fight the battle between retaining traditions and accepting newer modern views) have yet to fully equalize the rights and standing of a woman to that of a man’s. This, alongside the after-effects of the One Child Policy, now changed to the Two Child Policy, leads to many babies being abandoned every year, a high proportion being female as a result (Reuters, 2014). Often, this is done in the most inhumane manner: a baby girl was found in a handbag at a railway station on a “freezing” New Year’s Day (Reuters, 2014) and a baby boy was found stuck in a pipe after being flushed down a toilet (CNN, 2013). The new Baby Hatch scheme, which provides a safe haven for abandoned babies, will help to prevent such occurrences from happening. However, does this in fact prolong the existence of a bigger problem: babies being abandoned in the first place? Will it encourage abandonment to happen more often?
25 Baby Hatches have been established in China since 2011, and more are yet to come (CRI English.com, 2014). A Baby Hatch is defined as a “safe place where people can anonymously bring infants and leave them to be found and cared for” (CRI English.com, 2014). The parent(s) ring the bell and leave, allowing a gap for 5 to 10 minutes for a worker to open the door and collect the baby (BBC, 2014). A Baby Hatch in Guangzhou received 79 babies in the first 15 days (BBC, 2014), an alarming statistic. While the Baby Hatch does (very obviously) provide a better alternative to dumping an unwanted baby in the street, it may on the other hand also be encouraging more parents to leave their babies, and potentially for the wrong reasons.
Other than unwanted pregnancies outside of marriage, babies are abandoned for other more prejudiced reasons. Girls are more likely to be abandoned than boys, as Chinese society places more value on boys than girls (Reuters, 2014). Does a Baby Hatch scheme encourage this attitude, in fact providing a facility to accommodate it? While this prejudice is slowly dying as China modernizes, and as the One Child Policy is loosened, a similar attitude towards disabled and ill babies continues to exist (Reuters, 2014).
However, Wang Zhenyao, a welfare expert argues that “Child abandonment exists. Baby hatches won’t encourage more parents to abandon children, but will provide accurate numbers” (Reuters, 2014). This is a view shared among experts. More importantly, there is a general consensus that China “suffers” from a lack of a welfare system. “If there were such a system, a lot of parents wouldn’t abandon their children; we wouldn’t have to build so many baby hatches”, says Ji, of the welfare and adoption center (Reuters, 2014).
BBC (2014). “China expands abandoned baby hatch scheme”, BBC News [online] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-26219171 [Accessed 16 February 2014]
Blanchard, B and Hui, L (2014). “China’s unwanted babies once mostly girls, now mostly sick, disabled”, Reuters [online]. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/02/us-china-babies-idUSBREA110M120140202 [Accessed 16 February 2014]
Fei, X (2012). “More Baby Hatches for China Despite Controversy”, CRI English.com [online]. http://english.cri.cn/6909/2014/02/16/195s813203.htm [Accessed 16 February 2014]
Joseph, E. and Xu, C.Y. (2014). “Flushed down toilet, Chinese baby survives”, CNN World [online]. http://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/28/world/asia/china-baby-rescue/ [Accessed 16 February 2014]