China is officially abolishing the one-child policy that was instilled by the Communist Party in 1979, according to a report from BBC.
Women’s fertility has been highly regulated in China since the introduction of the policy. Many women caught pregnant with a second child would be subject to forced abortions or strict fines, among other punishments.
The policy was originally supposed to only be in place for 20 to 30 years, but it continued for nearly 40. According to All Girls Allowed, the policy has prevented nearly 400 million births in the country.
A growing gender imbalance within China was thought to have been caused by the one-child policy. A preference for males lead to the infanticide, abortion, or abandonment of girls.
The rules of the one-child policy were altered in 2013 to allow couples where at least one of them was a single child to have a second baby. Couples living in rural areas were also allowed to have two children if the first born was a girl.
The decision to remove the policy was due to China’s aging population where 30 per cent of the population is over the age of 50.
Women will still be limited to having two children, and critics say women won’t have true reproductive freedom yet.
“As long as the quotas and system of surveillance remains, women still do not enjoy reproductive rights,” Human Rights Watch’s Maya Wang told AFP.
BBC’s John Sudworth said that the relaxing of the one-child policy likely won’t be enough to boost the birth rate.