Human Rights and the One Child Policy

26 Feb

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 at the Palais de Chaillot, Paris. Human rights are defined as rights that are inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

Most aspects of the UDHR can be easily and almost universally agreed upon, yet violations happen regularly by those who agreed upon the declaration. This undermines it’s worth substantially. Let us be clear, these violations happen daily by every single country, even the biggest proponents of the declaration. However my focus here will be a brief look at the violations in China, with particular interest in China’s one Child Policy.

Something to note here is that many demographers consider the term “one-child” policy a misnomer, as the policy allows many exceptions: rural families can have a second child if the first child is a girl or is disabled, and ethnic minorities are exempt

The one-child policy has been challenged in principle and in practice for violating a human right to determine the size of one’s own family. According to a 1968 proclamation of the International Conference on Human Rights, “Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and the spacing of their children.”

Moreover, In 2002, China outlawed the use of physical force to make a woman submit to an abortion or sterilization, but it is not entirely enforced. In the execution of the policy, many local governments still demand abortions if the pregnancy violates local regulations, or even force abortions on women violating the policy.

Nonetheless Demographers estimate that the policy averted 200 million births between 1979 and 2009. Chinese authorities thus consider the policy a great success in helping to implement China’s current economic growth. The reduction in the fertility rate and thus population growth has reduced the severity of problems that come with overpopulation, like epidemics, slums, overwhelmed social services (such as health, education, law enforcement), and strain on the ecosystem from abuse of fertile land and production of high volumes of waste.

I believe that in this situation an act of weighing up has to occur. If China allowed its population to continue growing at the phenomenal rate that is was, there would have been undoubtedly serious implications in a country already deeply divided by inequality and poverty. However the continuation of the policy has left China with a large demographic population. Life expectancy has increased making the elderly more dependent on the shrinking youth. Could the long term consequences of this be dramatically detrimental to China’s long term social and economic success?

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