Monthly Archives: April 2012

Should the State Regulate Population Control: China’s One-Child Policies

 Aretta Williams

            The One-Child policy in China has become quite controversial since its beginnings  over 30 years ago. Chinese officials say that the one-child policy has controlled China’s increasing population, preventing between 250-300 million births between 1979 and 2000. Others, particularly outside of China, claim that this policy has led to violations of human rights, particularly when couples have been forced to use birth control or coerced into having abortions.

Overpopulation, at one time, appeared to be one of the main problems causing the one-child policy to arise inChina. The details of the one-child policy have varied over time. Although the one-child policy has instituted a decrease in the overall population, many lives of innocent children have been forcefully taken. By the government enforcing this policy, it is an increased abuse against humankind.

Deng Xiaoping introduced this policy in 1978 and it was to be implemented in every town by the birth planning committee. The policy attempted to limit every family to having only one child due to rising numbers within China’s overall population. If families did not adhere to the policy and tried to have more than one child, then forced abortion was sometimes imposed. China has about 13 million abortions annually, with an average of 35,000 abortions a day. This high rate of abortions was regarded very negatively in the United States. One newspaper article contained the following story from a Chinese mother who said that she had been forced to abort her second child when she became pregnant again. She claimed to have been drug from her home and taken to a nearby clinic to have an abortion. While the abortion took place, she also said that officials inserted an IUD to keep her from having more children. Years later, she moved to the U.S. hoping for better opportunities and found out she was suffering from complications from the IUD that has caused her to be infertile.

 Another severe problem that was an unintended consequence of the One Child policy was a dramatic increase in rates of female infanticide in China. Traditionally, Chinese families wanted sons to carry on the family name. Because daughters at marriage would leave home to join the husband’s household, they were known as a “small happiness.” When the One-Child policy was enacted, people wanted their one child to be male. If a daughter was born, families sometimes abandoned the babies or deliberately killed them. At one time, it was estimated that as many as one million female babies were being killed each year. More recently, urban parents with access to ultrasound exams in clinics practice sex selective abortions to ensure the birth of a male child. While the government has worked to promote the importance of daughters, the policy has led to an extremely imbalanced sex ratio in the young adult group with recent estimates suggesting that China may have as many as 40 million single men unable to find marriage partners by the year 2020. This imbalance has already led to a dramatic rise in the trafficking of rural Chinese women who are kidnapped and sold into marriages in distant provinces.

            While China did have a major population problem, the abuses and unintended consequences of the One-Child policy demonstrate the need to find a better way to control reproduction. Rather than force such a drastic policy on all its citizens, the Chinese government should consider another way to establish control of the increasing population. To completely and sufficiently solve the population issue, the government should focus on other factors such as the economy, rates of poverty, environmental protection, developing sufficient resources, and increasing education. If these issues are not solved, China can still expect to have a population problem.

            The key to handling this reproductive choice is education. Education, education, and more education! Although we should educate everyone on this topic, I feel that men should be the key targets. Traditionally, China was a male-dominated society and men still have significant power and influence. If we get more men to sympathize and understand the detrimental effects of the one-child policy, I feel like a lot could change.

The Naqib’s Daughter , Role Reversal

Role Reversal
In reading The Naqib’s Daughter I witnessed things that not only shocked me, but also dissolved my preconceived notions about what I knew about the French occupation of Egypt. The most prevalent of these new revelations was the presence of women in society, in particular the person of Sitt Nafisa. Previously, I thought that women played little to no part in society or in the war but after reading about her I saw that I was wrong. She was the pinnacle of society and remained in control of herself and seemingly the situations before her; she always exuded an aura of calmness and composure in the midst of so much turmoil. I was surprised that Nafisa was singled out by both Elfi Bey and the French nobles as a source of advice and counsel. In Ahmed, it speaks of Muhammad’s wife Khadija, saying that “she occupies a place in Islamic history because of her importance to Muhammad”, even though she was wealthy and influential, her name is mentioned because of Muhammad not on her own achievements. This signified to me that even if a woman comes form wealth she is not noteworthy unless she is connected to someone truly remarkable like Muhammad (Ahmed, 42). However, I believe Sitt Nafisa breaks this mold and makes a name for herself on her own.
From the beginning of the work, Nafisa has the trust of everyone in the novel. The most prevalent of these people to which Nafisa was a confidant, are her husband, Murad Bey and another powerful military figure, Elfi Bey. Her relationships with these two figures emphasize her differences from the stereotypical docile women. She is trusted by her husband and also by Elfi Bey. Nafisa and her husband shared a bond of equals; she “could read him under his bluster” (Ch1 The Enemy at the Gates) which is contrary to the husband wife relationships that one sometimes sees in American literature. To add to the perception of her status and importance, Elfi Bey risks everything to bring her news and see what she has to say about things. He shows he cares for her deeply when he says “There is no one I could trust not to betray you if he was caught” (Chapter 4 Aboukir) when asked why he had come himself and not sent a emissary. This point illustrates that Elfi Bey was willing to risk his life to protect Nafisa. They have a working relationship of trust and respect, which also was surprising to me given her status as a woman. Even though she is an elite, I would have thought in the elite’s household the males are always delegated to and the females are never even considered in important affairs, but this is proved false.
Also, the attitudes of the French toward Nafisa surprise me. It would have been expected that in times of such warfare and turmoil the French nobles would turn to male leaders in the society, but instead they turn to a women. And also Nafisa’s diplomacy in the face of her enemies is truly inspiring. She tells herself from the beginning that no matter what she will retain diplomacy with the intruders until they are gone. One such instance of this working relationship is when the French doctor comes to her and begs her saying, “we have come to ask your help in preventing the spread of the plague” (ch7) He then stresses protocols that should be followed to keep the people safe and healthy, although some of them Nafisa suspects are in place more to monitor the people of Cairo than to protect them; she says nothing and agrees to help. This is an instance of courage and diplomacy that speaks of the strength of Nafisa’s character, which a lot of other literary women lack.
To finish off the point of Nasifa’s strength of character I must speak of one other instance. When confronted with the prospect of leaving Cairo and fleeing to safety, Nafisa responds by saying “I won’t leave Cairo, whatever happens” (ch1) . This more than anything speaks to her special qualities and uniqueness that distinguish her from her other literal counterparts. She shows courage and national pride, even though she was born elsewhere, that is beyond what is expected of her and what is seen in the other women characters in the novel. For all of the reasons that have been enumerated, I was shocked by the character of Nafisa, but was equally inspired, and I realized that I was wrong in assuming that every women from that period was submissive and allowed themselves to be dominated, because Sitt Nafisa certainly did not, at least in this work of historical fiction.

A Subjective View of the Iranian Revolution in Dalia Sofer’s The Septembers of Shiraz

Dalia Sofer recreates her heartbreaking childhood story illustrating the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution in her novel, The Septembers of Shiraz. Sofer’s story is inspired by her own childhood story and takes place in the 1980’s in the United States, after her family emigrated from Iran. The Sofer’s story portrays the emotional torment and distress that the Iranian Revolution caused families during this time to undergo, as well as the consequences such distress had on relationships between family and friends. Isaac Amin, the father in the book that is inspired by Sofer’s father, is arrested and imprisoned after being falsely accused of being a spy. As a result of the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution and Amin being incorrectly incarcerated, Amin’s family encounters emotional torment and distress as they search for Isaac in an attempt to restore his status. The Iranian Revolution and the events that took place allowed the Sofer’s to show their true loyalty for each other.
        Farnaz is the first family member that illustrates her loyalty to her family. Isaac Amin is a Jewish rare-gem dealer in Tehran. After the fall of the Shah of Iran, many people are wrongly accused of pursuing activity that the government does not allow people to partake in. Although the armed workers of the prison beat Amin and his fellow inmates in order to get them to confess such activity, few inmates became willing to reveal anything. Unfortunately, Amin is caught between a rock and a hard place because he has nothing to confess. As Amin undergoes his own personal struggle while in prison, his wife, Farnaz, struggles with shielding the harsh truth from their children, showing the love and loyalty she has for them by keeping such sad news about their father from them. 
        Secondly, other family members also show the loyalty they have for their family. Being as The Septembers of Shiraz tells of the author’s own story, many things are revealed about Dalia Sofer throughout the text. Some of these aspects about Sofer include her exploration of loss and loyalty throughout the harsh situations that she and her family encounter on their journey. Although Farnaz attempts to keep the truth about Isaac Amin private from Shirin, the character who represents Sofer, she also has another son that lives away from home who struggles with what his father is experiencing. Each member of the family struggles with issues of loyalty because all they had throughout their struggle was each other. Much of the community stood their distance from them because of the accusations held against Amin, so they each had to stay loyal to one another and understand that Isaac did nothing wrong.
Specific situations that reveal characteristics of loyalty about Sofer and her family include when Farnaz goes to the prison in search of Isaac, and when Sharin attempts to save people who have been falsely accused by making their files “disappear”. As Farnaz and Habibeh enter the prison together to search for Isaac, they are nastily greeted by guards who are not very willing to release any information to her, including a guard with a “black beard so thick that it darkens the entire southern hemisphere of his face” and a “rifle hanging from his shoulder” (72). Despite the terrifying sight, Farnaz continues to ask questions in order to find out where Isaac really is, no matter the consequences. Typically, anyone that came to the prison searching for answers was immediately turned away, or imprisoned themselves. Farnaz was not imprisoned, and some of her questions were answered. The courage it took for Farnaz to enter such a terrifying place, knowing full well that she may not ever leave, shows the loyalty the Amin family had for each other during this hard time.
          A belief spoken of in the novel is that “if you withhold information in order to protect someone, God won’t punish you” (94). Sharin seems to constantly be thinking about this, especially when she goes into the armoire to make some of the files disappear. Sharin is aware that the men who are listed in the files are “destined to disappear” and her loyalty towards her father is reflected in her act of attempting to save as many people as she can (95). Sharin knows that even if she could only “make one file disappear; she could be saving one man’s life” (95).
        These instances portray the testament of loyalty that the Amin family exudes for each other in the story. I predict that by the end of the book, the family becomes closer from going through these struggles and is able to overcome even the most difficult of obstacles.

Lindsey Westphal