China's one-child policy: doctors discover 23 sewing needles in womans head

Luo Cuifen knew something was wrong when she went to the doctor after finding blood in her urine, but nothing could have prepared her for the discovery of 23 sewing needles, which doctors believe were stuck deep into her as a baby by her grandparents.

Doctors suspect they wanted to kill her because her family preferred a son. Some of the needles were pushed into the fontanelle, the soft spot on the head all babies have before the bones knit. Ms Cuifen, now 29, was a second granddaughter, leaving the family no chance to produce a treasured boy child.

Under the one-child policy, most families are limited to one offspring, but in the countryside, people may be allowed to have a second if their first is a girl.

The needles are about an inch long, and X-rays show they have worked their way into her lungs, liver, bladder and kidneys, making removal difficult, said Qu Rui, a spokesman for the Richland International Hospital in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province. More than 20 surgeons and doctors from China, Canada and the United States, experts in disciplines from gynaecology toneurology, are to operate to try to remove the first six needles today.

Over the years, Ms Luo has suffered from inexplicable anxiety and insomnia, as well as depression. At times, the needles would emerge from strange wounds on her body. Ms Luo’s grandparents are dead and there was no indication as to whether there would be an investigation.

There is a strong cultural bias in rural China against baby girls, sometimes known as "maggots in the rice". There is a saying that "raising a daughter is like watering someone else’s fields", a sign of how deep-rooted the pro boy bias is. Boys carry on the family name but, for a girl, families need to find a dowry when she marries into someone else’s family.

And having a son is the closest thing to a pension plan most rural Chinese will have: sons are supposedly better able to provide for the family and support their elderly parents. Because of the prejudice against girls, the increasingly mobile nature of Chinese society and the pressures of the one-child policy, many women do not report their pregnancies and if the child is a girl, they kill the baby.

Thousands of baby girls are abandoned every year, some on rubbish heaps. Others end up in the "dying rooms" of orphanages where they die of neglect, although the government has said it is cracking down on this.

There are 37 million more men than women in China, the most unbalanced gender ratio in the world. This skewed ratio has worsened since China introduced the one-child policy 30 years ago to curb population growth, making abortion a widely used method of familyplanning, and sometimes infanticide. The government reckons it has prevented 400 million births.

Official figures show there are 119 boys reported born for every 100 girls. The ratio in industrialised countries is 105 boys for every 100 girls. The gender gap raises the prospect of millions of men unable to find a wife, risking antisocial and violent behaviour. There are already 18 million more men than marriageable women. Gender scanning of a foetus is illegal in China but the regulation does not spell outpunishments, so a black market flourishes, with scans costing £3.40 if it is a boy and £2 for a girl.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy