[Gender Equality Issues]
Perception status and policy tasks of Seoul Citizens about non-marital childbearing
Kang Eunae, Lee Jae Kyung
Research Fellow, Seoul Foundation of Women and Family
The reproductive rights of women and the right to have children without marriage began to gain public attention through the 2019 ruling on the decriminalized of abortion (Article 270 of the Criminal Code) and the news of a non-marital childbearing by a famous TV personality in 2020. In many social surveys examining family values and acceptance of various types of families, it shows that the degree of tolerance for “life without marriage” or “non-marital birth” was high. At the same time, the right to conceive, the right not to conceive, the right to give birth and the right not to give birth are increasingly recognized as women’s universal rights. However, the legal system related to family composition in our society does not keep up with the current perception, and changes are required.
The study tried to derive policy improvement tasks to ensure the various forms of intimacy and respect reproductive rights by examining Seoul citizens' perceptions of non-marital childbearing in the current social background. To this end, an online survey was conducted on 2,000 Seoul citizens (20s to 60s), and 28 unmarried women were interviewed, including those who had given birth.
As a result, Seoul citizens were found to accept various forms of intimacy to a higher degree than the national average, and their tolerance for childbirth unrelated to marriage was also high. In particular, 26.2% of unmarried women in their 20s and 40s answered that they had experience of thinking about bearing children without getting married. In addition, a lot of participants answered non-marital childbearing through assisted reproductive technology should be respected as an individual's choice, if one can afford the treatment. However, it was found that social discrimination against single-parent families in our society is the biggest barrier to non-marital childbearing. In fact, non-marital fertility rate in Korea is very low at about 2.0% (more than 40% on the OECD average). This is because of the social perception that the childbirth within marriage is only considered “normal”. (Song, 2018).
As a result of the survey, Seoul citizens saw that diversity in the composition of intimacy needed to be guaranteed as a right in order for non-marital birth to become an option, and through the spread of inclusive awareness of diversity, social discrimination should be eliminated. In addition, it was found that guaranteeing reproductive rights based on gender equality was important. Citizens who recognized abortion as a woman's right viewed non-marital childbearing positively, and those who had thought about or positively perceived non-marital childbearing had higher awareness on gender equality than those who did not.
Recently, the central government also planned the “4th Basic Plan for Healthy Families” by reflecting social changes, changing the male- centered and marriage-centered family system, and announced it will come up with a method to easily access to assisted reproductive technology that unmarried women can become pregnant. In the study, a lot of participants answered not only improving the legal system and discriminatory awareness, but also addressing healthcare structure is crucial, such as equal access to assisted reproductive technology (accessible regardless of one’s marital status).
The result of the study showed markedly different perception of Seoul citizens by gender and generation. Therefore, it is necessary to improve civic awareness through policies, such as discussions, education, and campaigns in which citizens can participate, and to reduce the gap in awareness to arrange policy implementation. In addition, it is necessary to improve the legal system and prepare specific policies to guarantee the right to reproduce and the right to build intimacy in various forms of families. In the long term, Seoul's family policy and population policy should be shifted toward guaranteeing the right to form a variety of intimacy and reproductive rights as universal rights of citizens.
*Keyword: non-marital childbearing, pregnancy without marriage, reproductive rights, diversity in
the composition of intimacy, family policy