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The original article, [미혼모기획 ⑤] "입양 안 보내고 어떻게 학교를 다닌다고?", was published in OhmyNews in Dec. 11, 2010. It was translated by KUMSN and proofread by Valerie Owen, a volunteer of KUMSN. If you have any question, please contact KUMSN at email@example.com.
[Oh My News] Dec. 11, 2010
Do You Think That You Can Continue Your Studies
without Sending Your Baby for Adoption?
[Unwed Mother Focus ⑤] The Current State of Unwed Mothers and Ways to Improve the Situation from the Perspective of Family Status Discrimination
▲ On December 7, discussion under the theme of “the definition and scope of family status discrimination” was held led by the Society for the Right to Form a Family at a conference room of the New Progressive Party in Yeoui-do.
Have you heard about “family status discrimination”? It may be unfamiliar to the general public, but there is a group which discusses “family status” from the perspective of discrimination. At the 6th Family Policy Forum, discussion was held under the theme of “the definition and scope of family status discrimination” on December 7, at a conference room of the New Progressive Party in Yeoui-do.
An activist of the Korea Counseling Center for Lesbian, who was the speaker of the forum said that our society silently forces us to follow the life cycle focusing on marriage and timing of childbirth and childcare mobilizing the ideology of “normal family” – a family which consists of father, mother and their children and “model life”- marriage between different sexes and having children after the marriage. The ideology created in the modern society defines the current family system, which was formed by the institution of marriage, as the only legitimized unique form of family. This, in fact, functions as a system which undervalues intimacy of relationships and oppresses individual’s desire in terms of practicing sex and love.
In addition, the activist insisted that the current practice of legitimizing only a certain form of family prevents individuals from selecting various options and results in discriminating various types of family which exist in real life.
In the forum, the focus of the discussion was unwed mothers with children who face various family status discriminations. Hee-Jung, Kwon, Executive Director of the Korea Unwed Mothers Support Network, pointed out that the discrimination regarding rights of childbirth, child-raising, education, work, and house are serious.
The average age of first marriage in Korea is 28.3 and first childbirth is 30.97.
▲ Comparison among OECD 36 Countries of the Share of Babies Born Out of Marriage
The diagram above shows the percentage of babies born out or marriage among OECD countries. Korea has the lowest share with 1.5%, the US has 38.5%, and France, Norway and Sweden have more than 50%.
The figure is the result of the government family policy so far. Ms. Kwon argued that behind the figure of 1.5%, there are many babies born but adopted by other countries. In fact, among the babies adopted, the percentage of babies of unwed mothers is 80.9% in domestic adoption and 89.1% in international adoption. In Korea the abortion rate of unwed pregnant women reached a whopping 95.7% (KWDI 2009).
Another trend is the aging of mothers. According to the data released by the National Statistics Office last August, the age of first marriages is 28.3, and first childbirths are 30.97.
Ms. Kwon said that the figures show the equation that childbirth follows marriage. As the trend of financial burden for marriage increases and the system that does not recognize children born out of marriage continues, it will be hard to see mothers in their 20s in the future.
There are numerous examples of discrimination regarding education and labor. Many students dropped out of middle and high school or students were forced to stop studying at schools, and go to alternative schools or take a high school graduation qualification test. Ms. Kwon also pointed out that the social atmosphere is to encourage adoption. Even students who are studying at university are recommended to leave school for a while, enter a maternity home, and send the baby for adoption.
For example, one unwed mother, who is a university student, asked a social worker at a maternity home ways to continue her studies while raising her baby after giving birth during vacation. The social worker’s response was, “How can you continue your study without sending your baby for adoption?”
This is not the whole story. There are many cases found where workers are recommended to quit their jobs or have to decide to close their shops (relevant article is Sending a baby for adoption, Mothers quitting school…… Do unwed mothers are patients with infectious disease? Do unwed mothers young and immoral... What an absurd idea.)
The discrimination regarding the right to dwell is also serious. Unwed mothers and their children are vulnerable from a financial perspective to have a good house because they are discriminated against in regards to education and labor. In addition, the current law has loop holes to support them (relevant article, Husband died after a few days of marriage…… I am also labeled as an unwed mother.)
Consideration over “Family” and Redefining it are Required
Sook-Jin Lee, Director of the Gender Society Research Center, stressed in the discussion that to improve the current situation, we need to think about the issue in two ways. First is to deal with the issue of family status discrimination and present a law that does not allow discrimination to any form of family. Second, is to protect the right of living and dwelling of unwed mothers and expanding welfare services. Numerous other developed countries do so that unwed mothers don’t feel that they are discriminated against due to different forms of family.
Director Lee stated that if we opt for the first option, there will be a problem with the definition of the so- called “normal family” which only accounts for 43~45% of total households according to the census. It can be a barometer to use for comparing other forms of family.
In addition, she pointed out that even though they are saved by the law, all families in the same situation will not get benefits. That is why we need to think about the second option to expand welfare services. “In this case, it is required to discuss how to define “family” among progressive parties and reach an agreement”, she said.
In the meantime, Director Lee said that we need to create a specific agenda regarding the core of the damage resulting from family status discrimination. Then, when we opt for the first option, we can approach possible solutions.
Reporter, Young-sook Kim
We appreciate Valerie Owen, a volunteer of KUMSN, for proof reading this article.