A new draft regulation on population and family planning management was released by the municipal government of Wuhan, in central China's Hubei Province on Friday. Article 26 of the draft states that people who satisfy one of the following conditions should be charged "social maintenance fees": those who are unmarried but have given birth to a child and cannot provide valid identification of the child's father, or those who have a baby with men who they know have spouses.
These fees were originally designed to be imposed on citizens who contravene the Population and Family Planning Law, in order to achieve coordinated development between the population and the economy, society, resources and the environment.
Under the current interpretation of the draft regulation, unmarried mothers could be charged six times the annual per capita disposable income in Wuhan, which amounts to about 162,000 yuan ($26,407).
In China, bearing a child out of wedlock is viewed as immoral. Women who have children with married men can are often regarded as "home wreckers." But there could be various reasons for children born out of wedlock, such as invalid marriages or people who got married under false pretenses, rape cases or surrogacy.
Cases of children born out of wedlock are often complex and cannot be judged by a one-size-fits-all measure.
Moreover, concerns have also been raised on the potential consequences that may be caused by the draft regulation. In places where these births are penalized, more cases of abortions and infant abandonment may occur due to these punishments and the associated stigma.
It is reported that there are as many as 13 million abortion cases in China every year, mostly involving young, single women. It can be predicted that once the draft regulation is implemented, the number will rise even more.
Also, the regulation has limitations. It only penalizes mothers while ignoring the responsibilities of the fathers. It only seriously affects the poor while having almost no impact on the rich. It undermines social fairness.
Single mothers, whatever the causes, are relatively vulnerable groups in society due to the high pressures brought by social discrimination and the difficulties of raising a child alone.
The responsibilities of governments lie in providing citizens better livelihoods, instead of making moral judgments. The government is expected to have more humane and holistic considerations when making new regulations.