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Special Fund Aids Daughter-only Families

Two years ago, Zhang Chuanxin and his wife could hardly hold their heads high in their village as Zhang's mother kept complaining about their failure to "carry on their family line" by having a son.

Zhang, father of two daughters in Liugou Village of Huaiyuan County in east China's Anhui Province, however, found his life turned around in 2001 when China launched a national "care for girls" campaign to help control the gender imbalance in this world's most populous nation.


"Raising girls is as good as raising boys now," Zhang said, attributing his improvement in living standards to the local government's help, which is part of the campaign.


The changes have been great for the Zhangs.


After Huaiyuan was selected for the first trial of the "care for girls'' campaign in 2001, Zhang was subsidized by the county family planning committee with a four-wheel vehicle for transportation services while his wife got an aid fund to grow grains and vegetables at home.


Soon Zhang and his family built a new house, an achievement Zhang said was unimaginable before when their family sheltered themselves in two decaying rooms.


Like Zhang, households with only one or two daughters in the county will get 2,000 yuan (US$241) in support funds and be exempt from agricultural taxes and nine-year compulsory education fees for their daughters, a preferential treatment totaling some 30,000 yuan (US$3,623) until the girls are of marriageable age.


Officials said the campaign aimed to tackle the gender imbalance among newborn babies and eliminate gender discrimination against girls in many rural and underdeveloped areas.


Some Chinese demographers worry that the gender imbalance may create havoc that will haunt the country for generations.


Although the Chinese government has banned gender selection of newborn babies by ultrasound and selective induced abortion, some doctors secretly provide such services for extra fees, sometimes as high as 1,000 yuan (US$120).


Though the idea of "ladies first" is increasingly recognized in urban Chinese cities, the saying "raising a daughter is like watering someone else's fields" is deep-rooted among people in some parts of China, especially in the countryside.


Under the influence of 2,000-year-old Confucian ideas, farmers still believe that only sons can carry on their family names and provide a better "insurance" for their old years.


In regions dominated by sex bias, illegal ultrasound scanning to determine the sex of babies in the womb is common among quite a few couples that would rather have a boy than a girl.


"The traditional Chinese thinking that men are more valuable than women dominated the country for many centuries," said Pan Guiyu, vice minister of the State Population and Family Planning Commission.


"Some rural people just dumped female infants outside orphanages immediately after their birth," Pan said.


She acknowledged that 99 percent of Chinese children adopted by foreigners are girls and boys under the age of 10 have outnumbered girls of the same age.


(Xinhua News Agency January 6, 2004)

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