Thanks to decades of government-dictated “one-child policy” and a parental preference for sons, male births in China have far outnumbered female births for many years. By 2020, the number of men of marriageable age is expected to outnumber women by 30 to 35 million, and men are already struggling to find brides.
The shortage of women of marriage age has reached “crisis” levels in China’s rural areas, state newspaper People’s Daily reported on Feb. 25, and apparently men are taking some very drastic measures.
Because of the gender imbalance, rural men have to marry earlier in order to seize the scarce resources. Even divorced women are viable options in the fight for marriage partners.
Some poor rural men are “ready to do anything to find a woman,” it goes on. Even women with “with physical disabilities or mental retardation” are being targeted by matchmakers, a rural lawyer tells the paper.
China’s twenty-somethings are being pressured into marriage at even earlier ages than their parents, by parents who could have only one child and are eager for grandchildren, and a government trying to offset a steadily aging population.
But these young marriages often fail, and China’s divorce rate has been growing steadily. More than one-third of all marriages end in divorce in many big cities. Still, divorced women in China continue to face serious social stigmas that men do not, and additional burdens. Communal property often goes to men when marriages fail in China, but any child to women, a responsibility men searching for brides are sometimes reluctant to accept.