Guangzhou resident Lora Deng, 24, recently passed her marriage test in order to receive her marriage certificate. It’s a policy designed to remind new married couples about the one-child policy in a country that already has a population of about 1.3 billion.
The online test requires soon-to-be wives to receive a score of 80 percent or higher, and includes a section on sex education. For some, this is the first time they’ve ever been taught about sex.
“In China, you need certificates for everything,” says Deng. “Even for deaths.”
Last month, Deng and her long-time boyfriend, Paul Yeung, tied the knot at the Guangzhou City Hall. The process took about three hours from the registration to the photo-op in light of several other couples getting married that day.
Sex education is practically unheard of in China, unlike in North America where the subject is integrated into the school curriculum as early as grade 5. Deng says there are children’s books in which the word ‘hug’ is used when referring to how babies are made.
Still, traditional values are ingrained at the core of Chinese culture. This means passing on the bloodline remains paramount for many couples.
“If they can’t have children by themselves, they will try very hard to get a baby by all means,” says Tolly Tu, who works at a laboratory at a local Guangzhou hospital that helps couples have children through artificial insemination. “Even if they don’t have money, they will sell their houses. Some clients even come from the countryside,” he says.
Everyday, Tu prepares dishes where eggs are cultivated and then inseminated with sperm. This procedure is complete by noon. He says some women in their 40s are willing to undergo this procedure three or four times.
Having a child is important because of the pressure from their partner, their parents and their in-laws that could, if not resolved properly, lead to a divorce.
The choice of the child’s sex is possible with specific techniques, says Tu. But to the naked eye, it’s impossible. According to Tu, the Chinese law prohibits telling the soon-to-be mother of her child’s sex unless it’s medically related. While the younger generation is mostly indifferent towards the sex of their child, the older generation still prefers a boy. Learning that the child is a girl sometimes leads to an abortion.
Tu recalls his university days when he often heard clinics advertising painless abortions. Those who decide to have abortions face the possibility of dire consequences once they do decide to have a child in the future. “It’s not good for the uterus so it’s important to have safe sex to avoid complications,” says Tu.
Deng is off to Indonesia by the end of the month so she can spend quality time with her husband and to relax at the beach. Asked if she prefers a girl or a boy, she says that she is indifferent. But, like many Chinese going back generations, her husband says he prefers a boy.