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Fines for unmarried mothers draw criticism


10:28, June 08, 2013


WUHAN, June 8 (Xinhua) -- Authorities in the city of Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province have received multiple complaints regarding a recently revealed family planning draft ordinance.

The draft ordinance, which was posted online on May 31, promulgates a set of measures that include subsidies for families who have lost their only child and punishment for those who violate the one-child policy.

However, one of the draft's articles calls for imposing a "social compensation fee" on women who have children out of wedlock and cannot provide proof of their partner.

The article has triggered a great deal of controversy, as many believe it unfairly targets vulnerable women and children. Others believe the article is targeting women who have affairs with married men.

Provincial population and family planning regulations already call for those who knowingly have a child with people who are already married to pay the social compensation fee.

"There are pros and cons. The 'pro' side believes the article can protect legal marriage, while the other side believes the article may have an adverse impact on vulnerable people," said an official from the Legislative Affairs Office of the Wuhan Municipal Government who requested anonymity.

Local health and family planning departments usually levy social compensation fees on those who violate the one-child policy, using the money to pay for environmental protection efforts and to compensate for public government investment. The fee is at least three times the amount of one's average annual disposable income.

Statistics indicate that the annual disposable income for Wuhan residents was 27,000 yuan (4,400 U.S. dollars) in 2012, meaning the social compensation fee should be at least 81,000 yuan.

The article has raised concerns that abortion, abandonment and even baby selling will occur more frequently due to the heavy fines and social attitudes concerning unmarried women who have children.

"What if a woman becomes pregnant because of sexual assault, does she still need to pay the fee? And how can a woman precisely determine whether a man has a spouse or not?" said local resident Zhang Hai.

Shang Chongsheng, an associate professor at the School of Political Science and Public Administration under the Wuhan University, said that the draft ordinance is intended to preserve family planning policies.

However, if the controversial article is implemented, abortions and abandonment may occur at a greater rate, Shang said.

"Lawmakers need to fully consider the legal interests of all parties and specify the details of the ordinance so that social stability can be ensured," Shang said.

"China's family planning policy is facing new challenges, as different levels of society have different views on the policy and people have changed their attitudes towards marriage and child-bearing," said Shi Renbing, director of the Population and Policy Institute at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

Shi said proper marital and reproductive attitudes should be taught to adolescents, adding that adults who violate the one-child policy should be punished more severely.

The draft won't take effect until it is approved by the Wuhan Municipal People's Congress, the local legislative body.

"Before it is carried out, relevant departments will consider the public's opinions," the anonymous official with the Legislative Affairs Office said.

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