World

China to outlaw aborting female fetuses

China intends to make it a criminal offence to abort a female fetus, hoping to correct a major imbalance in its ratio of boys to girls.

China intends to make it a criminal offence to abort a female fetus, hoping to correct a major imbalance in the ratio of boys to girls born in the country.

The practice is currently banned, but there are no criminal consequences if parents disobey the ban or doctors carry out such an abortion.

Government figures show 119 boys are born for every 100 girls in China. Worldwide, fewer than 110 boys are born for every 100 girls.

Boys tend to die from violence, accidents and disease at a higher rate than girls, so the ratio equals out later in life before women start becoming more numerous than men of the same age.

China's imbalance means as many as 40 million men might be unable to find women to marry by the year 2020, however.

Beijing has set a goal of reversing the male-female imbalance by 2010.

The minister in charge of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, Zhang Weiqing, told the Xinhua news agency Friday the commission will draft legal amendments to outlaw procedures designed to determine the gender of a fetus, since this leads to selective abortion in many cases.

One-child policy blamed

The boom of baby boys began as ultrasound technology improved after China decreed in the early 1980s that each couple could have just one child, as a population-control measure.

Male children have traditionally been more welcome in many parts of China because they are expected to support their aging parents and carry on the family line. Daughters traditionally become part of their husband's family when they marry.

The vast majority of babies given up for adoption in the country are girls, left at orphanages and other public spots so that their parents can try again for a boy.

China's population officially hit 1.3 billion on Thursday.

with files from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

now