First posted 09:14:23 (Mla time) April 26, 2008
Asia News Network, Philippine Daily Inquirer
HA NOI -- With fewer Vietnamese women born and more of them marrying foreigners, a lot of men may be left feeling lonely.
While family planning authorities grappled with ways to slow Viet Nam’s soaring population growth earlier this year, they are now faced with the added problem of a growing gender imbalance.
Ten years ago, the gender ratio in Viet Nam was in line with the world average, with about 100 girls born for every 105 to 107 boys. But in recent years, the figure has changed considerably with the number of boys increasing higher, according to Khuat Thu Hong, director of the Institute for Social Development Studies.
Nguyen Thien Truong, president of Viet Nam’s Family Planning Association, says the trend is bad news for Vietnamese men.
"Gender imbalance, beside affecting the spiritual and psychology life of the population, will also lead to many Vietnamese men not having the chance to be a husband," said Truong.
"Especially now that there’s a trend among many Vietnamese women to marry foreigners."
In many regions, the number of boys has exceeded that of girls by 20 to 25 per cent.
According to a recent survey carried out by the institute in some northwestern and northeastern provinces, the gender ratio in those areas is much more skewed towards males in comparison with the national average.
The survey revealed there were 16 provinces with an infant gender ratio of 128 boys/100 girls and 20 provinces with 120 boys/100 girls.
The study also indicated that two-thirds of pregnant women knew the gender of their babies before giving birth, in most of cases thanks to carrying out ultrasound scans, even though this has been banned in public hospitals.
"Many couples still attempt to find out their babies’ gender before a final decision on whether or not to carry on with the birth," said Hong.
"There still remains the preferential psychology among people for boys. Beside attempting to use ultrasound scans, couples also apply many methods from so-called ‘handbooks’ instructing them on ways of making sure a pregnant woman has a boy."
However, according to Quan Le Nga, director of Anh Sang Public Healthcare Center in Ha Noi, these ‘tactics’ are not based on scientific research.
While ultrasound scans are banned at public hospitals, couples can easily get scans at private clinics, said Nam Xuan, a nurse at Tu Du Hospital in HCM City, adding some husbands do push for abortions when they find that their wives will have a girl.
"When we inform the husbands of the gender of their babies, if it’s a girl, some immediately show great disappointment," said Xuan.
"Some ask for an abortion even though the fetus is four or five months old."
According some population experts, abortion due to unwanted gender among Vietnamese women has made the abortion rate one of the highest in the world. On average, a Vietnamese woman has 2.5 abortions during her life.
The growing gender imbalance could also harm the health and psychology of women, if men put increasing pressure on their wives to keep trying for a male child.
"I have witnessed many women who have had to give birth 12 times, in an attempt to have a boy," said Le Thi Quy, director of the Gender and Development Centre.
"This can be considered a kind of domestic violence."
Gender imbalance may also lead to an increase in the trafficking of women as well as arranged marriages.
"The issue can be dealt with in time if immediate measures on reforming social policies, welfare and gender equality are carried out," said Hong. Viet Nam News-ANN