Faced with contempt and financial discrimination, single mothers rebel

Single mother Li Meng raises her 2-year-old daughter alone in Shanghai. However, she is almost a second-class citizen to society and the nation, as her illegitimate childbirth is so disliked in China. Like Li Meng, millions of women have to face the everyday and even derogatory appearances they look down on. In addition to this, there is economic discrimination. Only married women can benefit from childbirth-related social assistance.

Pregnant Li-Meng Yan chose to have a child, despite her father’s resignation and the unstable life that awaited her. She did not benefit from maternity leave because she was not married. Her only possible option is to quit her job in real estate to take care of her baby. “Many people have discouraged me (from childbirth). My mother said I was crazy.”She says, to avoid further stigma using aliases. “For her, it was unacceptable in China for a traditional family like us.”..

China has eased contraceptive policies since 2016 to help reduce fertility rates that threaten economic development. But now that every couple can have three children, maternity leave and pregnancy-specific medical insurance remains reserved for married women.

However, Li-Meng Yan was not disappointed. In her attempt to claim her rights, she embarked on her exhausted administrative quest that took her from office to office. “But it’s like they’re handing hot potatoes.”, She mourns. In the face of repeated refusals from her administration, Li-Meng Yan filed a proceeding.

Out-of-marriage childbirth is “contrary to public order and morals”

According to a 2019 report by a government-affiliated research institute, China has more than 19 million single mothers, including divorces and widows. But these women are stuck, says Dong Xiaoying, a lawyer who is the origin of a support network that provides advice, especially online.

“The law does not state that it is illegal to illegitimate a child (…) but it does not explicitly state that it is legal.”, She points out. And the battle is not just an administration. Many single mothers also have to deal with the hostility of their surroundings.

Symbol of dominant state of mind: Ministry of Health determined in 2017 that non-marriage childbirth was occurring “Contradicting public order and morals”..

So last year, when Wang Ruixi accessed the internet to express her pride in raising her daughter alone, she said she was suffering from online abuse. The activist has left China and now lives in Europe. “I can endure discrimination and disgust.”She explains. “But I don’t want to raise my daughter in such an environment.”..

But some things are getting better. Since 2016, children in single-parent families have finally arrived “Family register”This citizen status book needed in China to access public services such as education and health insurance.

Fight so you won’t regret

Another factor that could improve the eyes of the authorities: fertility rates fell to their lowest levels in decades last year. Therefore, abortion of these mothers carries the risk of having an unmarried pregnant woman to have an abortion, further contributing to the limitation of fertility.

Another single mother from Shanghai, Yu, who doesn’t want to reveal her name, has a two-year-old son. She also fought a futile battle against the administration. “”Everything I did was useless. “, She sighed. Authorities even called his boss to complain about his allegations. “We have to fight (for our rights), and at least we won’t regret it.”She says.

Slow evolution of thinking

Many women find hope in the story of the family of Chinese-American freestyle skier Eileen Gu, who won two gold medals at the Beijing Olympics last month and made a fuss in China.

Chinese media immediately turned their attention to his mother, Yang Gu, who raised the champion’s daughter alone. After that, social networks seemed to notice something obvious. Single mothers can also raise children who are successful in their lives.

For lawyer Dong Xiaoying, the mindset is slowly changing. “But it’s impossible to change everything in one day.”She points out.