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Gender Imbalance Linked to Social Ills
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An increasing crime rate, growing demand for pornography and illegal marriage are some of the consequences that could result from the widening gender gap in China, experts have warned.

Currently, there are about 18 million more males of marrying age than females, the Xinhua News Agency said yesterday.

The report said it is estimated that by 2020, males between the ages of 20 and 45 will outnumber their female counterparts by 30 million.

At the moment, 119 boys are born for every 100 girls in China, Jiang Chunyun, director of the China Family Planning Association, one of the country's largest non-governmental organizations, was cited as saying by the report.

The international average ratio is between 103 and 107 boys for every 100 girls.

"The ratio has surpassed the normal level," Jiang said at a conference on Tuesday in Shenyang.

Zhang Weiqing, head of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, said the gender imbalance has been evident since the 1980s, giving China the world's most serious gender discrepancy.

"The phenomenon will affect social stability and harmony," Zhang said at the conference.

The commission said it had not released any official statistics on the current disparity between marrying age adults because of the vagaries in defining marital age groups.

Zhai Zhenwu, dean of School of Sociology and Population Studies at the Renmin University of China, told China Daily: "If a gender imbalance occurs in one or two age groups, it can be adjusted. But when it stays and gets worse, the issue could become irreversible."

As an example, he said that if a 30-year-old man married a younger woman because of a shortage of women his age, he would be taking away a younger man's already-limited choices.

He blamed the unbalanced sex ratio on the traditional preference for male heirs, the availability of gender testing of fetuses with ultrasound and backward social security scheme in rural areas.

The sex discrepancy is highly visible in remote and poor areas, he said.

Zhai said the government was addressing the problem with education, subsidies and a strict regulation of ultrasounds and abortions. He also called for a more positive attitude toward women.

(China Daily August 23, 2007)

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