Unmarried Mothers Call for Legitimate Rights for Out-of-wedlock Children

May 14, 2014
Editor: Tracy Zhu

On Mother's Day 2014, which fell on May 11 this year, six unmarried mothers with out-of-wedlock children from Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Shanxi and Guangdong provinces or municipalities united together to send several 'Out-of-Wedlock Family Planning Service Card' which they made themselves, to 32 provincial or municipal governments in China. They attached a proposal letter to each of the cards expressing their three wishes. The first wish is that they hope these government bodies can begin to respect out-of-wedlock births. The second is that these government bodies should stop charging social compensation fees or taking out financial punishment measures on the mothers of those out-of-wedlock children. The third is to allow out-of-wedlock children to be issued with a local 'hukou' (the household registration system).

This action focused society's attention once again on the issue of out-of-wedlock children's rights and interests.
This group of unmarried mothers got to know each other through the Internet because of their shared experience of giving birth to an out-of wedlock children and the difficulties involved in raising their children, with many legal limits placed on them which cause real life problems, including placing limits on giving these children a 'hukou'. In China, having a 'hukou' is bound up with countless social benefits, and is very important to a person throughout his or her life. With a 'hukou', a child is authorized to be able to go to school and enjoy medical security.
Xiao Tang (a pseudonym) from Guangzhou, capital city of south China's Guangdong Province gave a birth to a boy in October 2013. She and her boyfriend were unmarried at that time and are still unmarried now, for different reasons. Xiao once asked the local family planning office about her son's 'hukou'. "They said I have to pay at least 50,000 yuan (U.S. $8,005) to 60,000 yuan (U.S. $9,606) as the social compensation fee to make her son eligible to apply for a 'hukou'."

Lin Jing, who is 37 years old from north China's Tianjin Municipality, is still unmarried. She gave a birth to a child in March 2014. She complained "I'm not young any more. I just want to have a child to accompany me in my life. What's the problem with this simple wish?"

Lan (pseudonym) from Beijing gave birth to an out-of-wedlock child after she divorced with her former husband. But the biological father of the child finally chose to decline adding his name to the child's birth certificate, denying he was the natural father of the child. Now, Lan's child is over one year old. When reflecting on her sad experience in trying to give her child a legitimate 'hukou' by visiting different official departments, she couldn't bear but sob with tears. She said: "When I went to the relevant offices for consultancy, they either asked me to provide information on the child's natural father and a certificate on the proof of their relationship, or asked me return back to wait for their further notice. Sometimes I was criticized by some official staff or received their sarcastic ridicule. And, most sadly of all, what could I do since I still haven't found the natural father of the child."
Yue Ma (pseudonym) from east China's Shandong Province said: "We are strongly against any unreasonable behavior while complaining the unfair treatment through extreme ways, including committing suicide, or abandoning out-of-wedlock children. However, we also don't support the overbearing behavior of some mothers when they receive unfair treatment. We think it's our responsibility to build up a harmonious society. We hope to deliver our reasonable requirements and express our voices on protecting the special groups of mothers and children."
Yue thinks although the unmarried mothers didn't have a legal marriage certificate before they gave birth, these unmarried mothers need the same birth-giving services provided by the State and their out-of-wedlock children still need to have a 'hukou' without any barriers, like other children.
However, Yue also admitted, "Maybe these requests won't receive any reply soon. But we will feel no regrets to ourselves and our children, since we have made an effort."
Yu Jun from Beijing said: "People from all walks of life have become more and more understandable and shown a more inclusive attitude to unmarried mothers. It is with a big hope that I have decided to take  part in this action. I believe the group of disadvantaged people, including me and my child, won't be forgotten by society and the government."
Central China's Hubei Province has issued a new policy stating that applications for birth certificates will no longer require a marriage certificate, meaning that unmarried mothers can now apply for birth certificates for their children. Birth certificates are a required document when registering permanent residence in China.
Every year in China, the number of women giving birth out of wedlock grows by 10-13 percent, according to surveys carried out by the local press.
Expert's Opinion 
Huang Yizhi, a lawyer who has focused on the issue of protecting the rights and interests of women and children with the implementation of the family planning policy for many years, thinks that according to Item 17 of the Law on Population and Family Planning, which prescribes that 'Civilians enjoy the legal right to give birth," both married and unmarried people are equal in enjoying the right to give birth.
Huang thinks there are many cases in real life in which people have to give birth to their own children while they are still unmarried because they really want to give birth to their own children although they don't want to get married or are unable to get married for various reasons.
However, the fact that government bodies charge a social compensation fee to these out-of-wedlock children has actually required the prerequisite of having a legal marriage before giving birth. This, in Huang's opinion, has deprived these unmarried birth-givers of their legal rights.

Huang noted that Chinese law protects women's legal right to give birth. The birth givers shouldn't be treated differently based on whether they are married or unmarried. Maybe China's traditional morals are against the idea of giving birth without being married. However, such traditional moral judgments shouldn't bereave unmarried women of the right to choose when to give a birth and become a mother.

(Women of China)

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