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BEIJING, China, 8 July 2020 – UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund launched virtually today, the 2020 State of World Population (SWOP) report in Beijing, China. 

UNFPA releases its flagship report SWOP globally every year, to raise awareness of population issues and call for full realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all. The theme of 2020 SWOP is “Against my will: defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality”.

In Beijing, UNFPA China launched the report locally in partnership with the Department of Population Monitoring and Family Development of the National Health Commission. Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, UNFPA China Representative and Mr. Wei Yunpeng, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Population Monitoring and Family Development of the National Health Commission addressed the opening ceremony. Ms. Navchaa Suren, UNFPA China Deputy Representative presented an overview of the report.

The report focuses on three harmful practices against women and girls—female genital mutilation, child marriage and son preference—that are strongly linked to sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

“Our goal at UNFPA is to end harmful practices by 2030. This is also a goal of the international community and a key target of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, UNFPA China Representative.

Every year, millions of girls are subjected to practices that harm them physically and emotionally, with the full knowledge and consent of their families, friends and communities, according to the report. 

This year, an estimated 4.1 million girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation. Today, 33,000 girls under age 18 will be forced into marriages, usually to much older men. Also, an extreme preference for sons over daughters in some countries has fueled gender-biased sex selection or extreme neglect that leads to their death as children, resulting in 140 million “missing females.”

Decades of experience and research show that bottom-up, grassroots approaches are better at bringing change, the UNFPA report states. “Harmful practices against girls cause profound and lasting trauma, robbing them of their right to reach their full potential. We must address the problem by tackling the root causes, especially gender-inequitable norms. We must do a better job of supporting communities’ own efforts to understand the toll these practices are taking on girls and the benefits that accrue to the whole of society by stopping them,” Dr. Ahonsi added.

In China, strong son preference still exists in many places. Son preference together with availability of sex selection technology and sustained fertility decline, have contributed to gender-biased sex selection and skewed sex ratio at birth, which has brought profound and long-term impacts on the Chinese society and individuals, such as a marriage squeeze, gender imbalance, discrimination and violence against women, and violation of the rights of women and girls.

As per official data and statistics, the sex ratio at birth in China has hit a plateau and consistently dropped from 119.5 in 2009 to 111.9 in 2017 in the past years. Although the ratio has fallen, it is still higher than a natural or normal ratio of 104-106 male births for every 100 female births.  

China has been actively engaged in different initiatives to combat gender-biased sex selection and address the sex ratio at birth imbalance. UNFPA has been working closely with government of China counterparts to foster a policy environment that is conducive to the protection of women and girls from gender discriminatory and harmful practices, and to increase public awareness and community engagement to change social norms. Interventions implemented have included campaigns that target gender stereotypes to change attitudes and open the door to new norms and behaviours. They spotlight the importance of daughters and highlight how girls and women have changed society for the better.

“China developed the ‘Healthy China 2030’ strategy and an action plan for 2019-2030 on implementing of the strategy. It aims to ensure people’s reproductive rights, address high sex ratio at birth, raise awareness of young people and migrants, expand the availability of reproductive health services, and reduce unintended pregnancy among young people,” said Mr. Wei Yunpeng, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Population Monitoring and Family Development, National Health Commission.

During the event, six national and international experts from China Population and Development Research Center, Renmin University of China, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Women’s Research Institute of All-China Women’s Federation, Beijing Equality NGO, and UNFPA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific discussed the gaps and the ways forward for addressing gender biased sex selection in China.

The event highlighted every woman and girl must be guaranteed equal opportunities to build a decent life based on equality, autonomy, dignity and choice. We must foster respect for women and girls by disrupting root causes of inequality and respecting girls’ autonomy, and protect them by enacting and enforcing laws against practices like gender-biased sex selection.

Around 60 people from government institutions, think tanks, academia, NGOs, UN and international organizations, embassies, media, women and youth representatives participated in the online event.

To download the full report (English version only):

To download the report highlights: