China egg freezing ban sparks massive debate online

File photo: Chinese actress Xu Jinglei attends the 5th Chinese Film Festival press conference on May 11, 2015 in Paris, France Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Xu Jinglei has acted in and directed several films, and is known as one of China's "Big Four" actresses

There has been intense debate in China over a controversial ban on single women freezing their eggs.

In addition to the ban for single women, married women can only freeze their eggs in specific circumstances - for instance when they are to undergo chemotherapy, state media say.

The ban is not new but caught attention after news that actress Xu Jinglei had gone to the US to have her eggs frozen.

Many have ridiculed the ban and described it as sexist.

The debate began in July, after Xu Jinglei, 41, said that she had frozen her ova, or egg cells, in the US in 2013.

The 41-year-old, who is considered one of China's "Big Four" actresses, said she had taken the decision because she might want children in the future.

Then on Sunday, state-run broadcaster CCTV ran a report on the subject, which highlighted some of the risks associated with the procedure and said the ban was "in accordance with family planning policies".

The report triggered a barrage of criticism on Chinese social media, with close to 33,000 comments on CCTV's weibo (microblog) thread alone, and more than 11 million views for hashtags related to the subject.

"We don't even have control over own own ovaries anymore!" user "Kitty is a Lace Lover" wrote.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Egg freezing is still a relatively new technology which enables a woman to save eggs for future IVF treatment if needed

"Its meaning is that unmarried women don't have the right to reproduce," user Fish girl wrote.

Many questioned why China allowed male sperm donors, but prevented women from freezing their eggs, while others mocked the ban as an attempt to force more women to marry and have children in a hurry.

"This ban should help the men that no one wants!" one user wrote.

There are fewer limitations on the storage of sperm in China.

State media say the restrictions are designed to combat a black market in human eggs, and have stressed the possible health risks associated with the procedure.

China introduced its one-child policy at the end of the 1970s to curb rapid population growth - but eased the policy in 2013 amid concerns over the country's ageing population.

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