Women in modern China have won the right to a number things they didn’t have a hundred years ago: an education, a career, and the ability to choose their own husband among them. However, modern reforms don’t extent to complete control over their own reproductive systems.
You can be a successful, independent Chinese woman with your own career, but you can’t control what you do with the eggs in your own body – at least, not without a man in your life. That’s because if a woman wants to freeze her own eggs to give birth in the future, she needs to meet an important requirement: having a husband.
China’s Ministry of Health has said that any Chinese couples interested in using assisted reproductive technology must present their marriage certificate, identity cards and birth permits and prove that at least one partner is suffering from fertility difficulties if they want to use the technology.
The ban comes after a controversy erupted earlier this summer when actor and director Xu Jinglei (seen below) was reported to have had her eggs frozen in the USA. The outcry over the procedure had to do with Xu’s age, 41, and the fact that she remains unmarried.
Netizens felt Xu was far too old to be considering having a baby of her own through any means, and should refrain from “playing God”. Meanwhile, Sina News reports that egg-freezing is a growing trend among women in Chinese hospitals who are following in the footsteps of celebrities like Xu.
For her part, Xu only had personal misgivings, saying, “The only thing I regret is that I am a little bit late in doing so.” Xu explained her decision to store her eggs was the only way to make up for her past mistakes if she failed to get married and have a baby.
The issue of leftover women is a taboo subject in China, with society generally accepting that women should get married before the age of 27. This fixed age is important because pregnancies are not encouraged to take place after 30 years of age. Experts warn that postponing pregnancy can lead to a host of problems and urge women to reconsider using techniques such as egg freezing.
Regulations set by the Ministry of Health now state that freezing eggs solely for the purpose of preserving or extending fertility, surrogacy and trading in ova are all illegal acts. The ban was met with harsh criticism online. Here’s how popular blogger and Nescafe spokesperson Han Han lashed out at the Ministry of Health:
So it’s not possible to want to have a child without first getting married to a man? You can’t use your own eggs? Women don’t have the right to independently have their own babies? In addition to this, birth permits aren’t given to unmarried women who get pregnant, meaning that these children won’t even be able to get a hukou (residence permit) in the future unless they pay a large fine as a punishment. Does bearing children require a man for a husband? I can’t accept this kind of male chauvinism.
As pointed out by Chinese media, China has no major technological obstacles to successful egg freezing, only that there is an ethical line drawn by society as to how this assisted reproductive technology will be used. However, ethical standards aren’t impeding the progress of certain scientific research in China, such as stem cell research, which is occurring in a unregulated environment that has been called the “Wild Wild West”.
Nature reports that despite guidelines set by China’s Ministry of Health, clinics continue to provide untested medical treatments derived from stem cell research.
So while single women in China don’t have the right to control their own reproductive systems, at least Chinese scientists seem to be enjoying their freedom in China. As neurobiologist Luo Minmin said, “If I had stayed in America, the chances of making a discovery would have been lower. Here, people are willing to take risks. They give you money, and essentially you can do whatever you want.”
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- Guangdong Has The 2nd Largest Population of “Leftover Women” in China
- Guangdong has the most singles in China, but “leftover men” a problem
- University student becomes celebrity for marrying and having kids early
- Anhui Bill Proposes “Pink Holidays” For Menstruating Women
- Did the Times Censor a Story on Foreign Abortions in China?