Mothers’ Rights

Bearing and mothering children is one of the most natural and beautiful of human experiences. Societal models of parenting, however, often impose constraints upon who is considered an acceptable acceptable parent, such as age, marital status and financial capability. Although these all may factor into parenting success or failure, none proves that a particular woman will or will not be an adequate mother.

Korean society is no different than others in this regard. Unmarried mothers in particular experience significant stigma and discrimination as a result. It is no surprise that many succumb to societal pressure and place their children in adoption, rather than face the challenges of parenting in such a hostile environment.

KUMFA, the Korean Unwed Mothers and Families Association, cites Korean government statistics that support this:

According to the statistics put out by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in 2007, out of 100 pregnancies of unwed women in Korea, 96 will have an abortion and only 4 will give birth. Of those four, three will eventually be forced to give up their child due to economic difficulties and social discrimination which makes it nearly impossible for unwed mothers to support their children in Korean society.

In spite of the lack of support they experience, Korean women continue to stand up to the stigma and economic pressures work to parent their children. They do so in the face of organized support from religious organizations and adoptive parents for anonymous “baby boxes” through which they can anonymously surrender their children, a practice with serious long-term emotional consequences for them and their children.

Whether married or not, women who wish to parent their children should be given every opportunity and support to do so, regardless of marital status. The United Nations 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women clearly defines discrimination as:

… any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

Korean government policies and stipends that favor domestically-adopting parents over single unmarried mothers provide an excellent example of distinction, exclusion and restriction. Supporting single mothers will help end this discrimination.

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Organizations Supporting Single Mothers’ Rights in Korea