infaticide in china



Killing your baby, what could be more depraved. For a woman to destroy the fruit of her
womb would seem like an ultimate violation of the natural order. But every year,
hundreds of women commit neonaticide: they kill their newborns or let them die. Most
neonaticides remain undiscovered, but every once in a while a janitor follows a trail of
blood to a tiny body in a trash bin, or a woman faints and doctors find the remains of a
placenta inside her. In China, babies are often abondoned near orphanages and found
decaying along the streets. The Chinese government established population controls that
increased the pressure on families to limit reproduction and the religious establishment
has failed to take an active role in discouraging neonaticide.
Religion in China is influenced by three major schools of thought: Taoism,
Confucianism and Buddhism. While Confucianism is a major philosophy and Buddhism
originated in India, Taoism is truly a Chinese religion. Regardless of their origin, all
three major religions are ancient and when practiced today are deeply intertwined in
China\'s communist ideology. Taoism and Confucianism have co-existed throughout
history and are usually practiced together – either at different times or as different aspects
of the follower\'s overall life. While Confucianism largely concerns human society, social
relations and individual conduct; Taoism is more individual and mystic and is greatly
influenced by nature. Buddhism, with an estimated 300 million followers worldwide, is
a major world religion which focuses on individual enlightenment. Buddhism also
teaches reincarnation - the doctrine that the soul returns in another body - and some
Chinese Taoist cults teach physical immortality, but none involves resurrection.
Personhood is both a central problem Buddhist ethics, consequently a very
promising area for a dialogue. The problem for Buddhist ethics has always been why
should people act ethically if there is no act, no actor and no consequences of action. If
there is no self or other, how can there be karmic consequences, responsibility, loyalty, or
even compassion. Scholars continue to be divided over whether Buddhism suggests
different ethics for those who persist in the illusion of self (kammic ethics) and for those
who would transcend the illusion of self (nibbanic ethics). The paradoxical unity of
compassionate ethics and nihilistic insight into selflessness has been the central koan of
Mahaayaana Buddhism. Tantra and Zen suggest that the person who sees that there is no
"I" is beyond good and evil. The Theravaadin commentator Buddhaghosa appears to
have combined all three views. He held that killing produces karma jointly through the
mental effort and intensity of the desire to kill, and the virtue of the victim.1 Since
killing big animals required more effort, and was therefore worse than killing small
animals, the karma of feticide would be less than murder of adults, and less in earlier
stages of pregnancy. None of the religious followings has made a definitve statement
against feticide, or presented any spiritual punishment for the act, aside from the karma
of feticide which would be negligable.
Neonaticide has been practiced and accepted in most cultures throughout history.
In a 1970 study of statistics of child killing, Phillip Resnick, a psychiatrist, found that
mothers who kill their older children are frequently psychotic, depressed or suicidal, but
mothers who kill their newborns are usually not. This difference led Resnick to argue
that the category infanticide be split into neonaticide, the killing of a baby on the day of
its birth, and filicide, the killing of a child older than one day. Martin Daly and Margo
Wilson, both psychologists, argue that a capacity for neonaticide is built into the
biological design of our parental emotions. Mammals are extreme among animals in the
amount of time, energy and food they invest in their young, and humans are extreme
among mammals. Parental investment is a limited resource, and mammalian mothers
must \'\'decide\'\' whether to allot it to their newborn or to their current and future offspring.
In most cultures, neonaticide is a form of this triage. If a newborn is sickly, or if its
survival is not promising, they may cut their losses and favor the healthiest in the litter or
try again later on. Until very recently in human evolutionary history, mothers nursed
their children for two to four years before becoming fertile again. Many children died,
especially in the perilous first year. While the limited availability of resources is one
factor that is responsible for the infanticide in China, there is a unmistakeable gender
preference which results in a higher number of female infants killed over males.
China\'s approach to population