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Gendercide and the Cultural Context of Sex Trafficking in China


Susan Tiefenbrun


Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Christie J. Edwards


Thomas Jefferson School of Law

December 12, 2009

Fordham International Law Journal, Vol. 32, No. 3, p. 731, 2009
Thomas Jefferson School of Law Research Paper No. 1522603

Abstract:     
This article discusses a demographic crisis in China that arguably rises to the level of "gendercide." Women in China are bought and sold, murdered and made to disappear, in order to comply with a governmental policy that coincides with the cultural phenomenon of male-child preference. Demographers estimate that there are between 50 and 100 million missing women in China. In answer to the resulting scarcity of women, gangs, "specialist households," and "specialist villages" have been working in an organized chain to kidnap and sell women in China.

Several factors work interdependently to cause a serious shortage of women in China. Women are disappearing because of the social pressures of male-child preference, the zealous enforcement of China’s "One-Child Policy" by local government authorities, and the murderous responses to this policy undertaken by millions of ordinary people in China who are desperate to have a son. The 2000 Chinese census reported that 117 boys were born for every 100 girls, compared to the global average of 105 or 106 boys to every 100 girls. This disparity may be linked to the practice of aborting female fetuses and killing female babies.

This gender imbalance has caused an increase in prostitution and human trafficking in China. Sex trafficking in China takes many forms: the purchase of women for brides, the purchase of a male son, or the sale of unwanted female children. Many men, primarily in rural China, desperately seek brides in a country where women are in short supply. These men will resort to purchasing a trafficked woman for marriage. Couples seeking a male child will sell or even murder their girl child in order to make room for the purchase of a trafficked baby boy. Young women and infants are bought and sold like cargo. Human trafficking in China is a lucrative international business that is expanding due to several factors: the aggressive implementation of the One-Child Policy, a faulty legal system, and the blind adherence to longstanding cultural traditions that devalue women. In China, Communist Party directives overshadow the legislative and judicial process. The primacy of government policy results in the ineffectiveness of laws that theoretically protect women and female children in China.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 51

Keywords: China, Chinese Communist Party, Chinese population, gendercide, one-child policy, population control, sex-selection abortion, infanticide, sex trafficking, human trafficking, prostitution, sex slavery, international human rights, women's rights, status of women

JEL Classification: K10, K14, K33, K42

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Date posted: December 13, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Tiefenbrun, Susan and Edwards, Christie J., Gendercide and the Cultural Context of Sex Trafficking in China (December 12, 2009). Fordham International Law Journal, Vol. 32, No. 3, p. 731, 2009; Thomas Jefferson School of Law Research Paper No. 1522603. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1522603

Contact Information

Susan Tiefenbrun (Contact Author)
Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )
1155 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
United States
619-961-4318 (Phone)
Christie J. Edwards
Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )
1155 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
United States
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