B E I J I N G, Aug. 25, 2002 -- In garbage dumps on the outskirts of Beijing, scavengers occasionally uncover the unthinkable — newborn baby girls, abandoned and left to die.
Chen Rong has managed to save five little girls she's found. "Innocent children are being killed," she says, "because they are girls, not boys."
Boys More Valued
Historically, Chinese culture has valued male children over females, especially in rural areas, where peasants want boys to help in the fields.
Today, as ultrasound machines have become readily available, China has seen an epidemic of sex-selection abortions — so many, that the ratio of males to females in parts of China has been thrown wildly out of kilter.
For every 100 girls born here, there used to be about 105 boys. Now, roughly 120 boys are born for every 100 girls.
It's an imbalance that some believe will have dire consequences for the future.
"You're going to have millions of men who have no stable family life of their own," says Adrienne Germain of the International Women's Health Organization. "And the frustration and the alienation that comes from that situation can lead a lot of boys and men into broader community violence."
Already, there are so-called bachelor villages cropping up in rural China, populated almost entirely by unemployed men.
Officials say millions of female births have probably gone unreported in recent years. No one knows how many of those babies may have been abandoned or killed.
Campaigns for Women
Chinese leaders are well aware of the problem. They have recently relaxed the one-child policy to allow some in the countryside to have extra children. They've also banned doctors from revealing the sex of a fetus during ultrasound screening. And they've launched campaigns that emphasize the important status of women in Chinese society.
Mao Tse-Tung once said, "Women hold up half the sky," but from China's imperial past to its communist present, it has remained a male-dominated society, and no decree or law is expected to bring immediate change.