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There are 1.8 million women on a database that's being compared to The Handmaid's Tale.

A database of 1.8 million women likened to something out of The Handmaid’s Tale has been discovered by a Dutch researcher.

The database, which is based in China, appears to be some kind of tracker of women, which also includes their child-bearing status.

It contains columns for the woman’s age, education, marital status, location, phone number as well as something called “BreedReady”.

That’s right, BreedReady – which the South China Morning Post has suggested may be a poor translation to indicate whether the woman is of child-bearing age or has children.

In any case, a database that allegedly tracks this level of detail of so many women, the majority of whom are based in Beijing, is terrifying.

Especially when we don’t know who’s created it.

The researcher who claims to have discovered the database and shared it on Twitter, Victor Gevers, has suggested that it was made by an organisation, perhaps in response to the shortage of women in China.

“We still do not know how the owner was or what the database was actually designed for. When we do we will share this,” he wrote on Twitter.

Others suggested the database could be part of a government effort to manage China’s population troubles.

China is still grappling with the consequences of its one-child policy, which came to an end in 2016. The policy has resulted in an older-age skewed population and a huge imbalance in the number of men to women. In 2018, there were 112 men to every 100 women aged 15-29.

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Gevers said he was still working to verify the data he collected and would share more information as soon as he learned it. However, as of early Monday morning, the site and its database appear to have been taken down.

On Twitter and other social media platforms, users have compared the database to a precursor of the events in Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. In the book and popular TV series, an oppressive government tries to correct an extremely low birth rate by forcing women to become handmaids, essentially prisoners kept to bear children.

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On the other hand, the data could belong to a Chinese dating site – which would still be worrying if the data can so easily be hacked into and released.

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