Some four million men in Vietnam will have no opportunity of getting married by 2050 if the current imbalance in the nation’s sex ration persists, according to experts.
Seven districts with the highest boy-to-girl ratios at birth are Son Tay (131.9:100); Ung Hoa (130.1:100); Me Linh (123.6:100); Ba Vi (121.9:100), Phu Xuyen (121.3:100), Thach That (120.9:100) and Soc Son (120.3:100).
Similar imbalances nationwide will lead to a shortage of women, which means that by 2050, 2.3-4.3 million men in Viet Nam will have no chance of finding wives, the General Directorate of Population and Family Planning estimates.
Population experts have warned that the gender imbalance can lead to an increase in the trafficking of women and children, prostitution and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS.
This picture taken on October 23, 2012 shows a young ethnic Hmong hill tribe woman carrying a baby on her back as she makes way home in the mountainous district of Mu Cang Chai, in the northwestern Vietnamese province of Yen Bai. Photo: AFP
The imbalance in sex ratio at birth and a preference for sons has become a pressing issue in the country.
Since it is common practice that women go to live with their husbands’ family after getting married, the understanding is that daughters are eventually “lost” for good; hence, without a son, there will be no one to take care of parents when they get old.
With this mindset, couples come under a lot of pressure from the husbands’ families to have sons, and this increases if the first child is a girl.
Kieu Thi L (first name withheld) in Son Tay Town’s Duong Lam Commune, only succeeded in having a son from her 6th pregnancy. She gave birth to 3 daughters and had two intrauterine foetal deaths. Her husband was the head of his family line, the pressure to have a male child was immense.
Another couple in Ba Vi District’s Tay Dang Commune gave birth to five children in hopes of getting a son. Three of them ended up being infected with the HIV virus from their father who was doing drugs.
Nguyen Thi Lien, a family planning official in the commune, she visited the house repeatedly to persuade them to stop having babies, but the wife would sneak out every time she came.
“In more well-to-do families, their attitude towards family planning officials is, ‘I give birth to my children so I will raise them, keep your nose out of my business,’” Lien said.
Do Viet Hung, director of the Centre of Population and Family Planning in Son Tay town, said that the hard, exhausting labour required in the fields was the underlying reason for the preference for sons in suburban areas.
Moreover, as 70 per cent of the rural population do not get any pension from the State, they feel insecure about not having a son to look after them when they get old, according to Hung.
The preference for sons is so deep-rooted that several measures taken in recent years to tackle gender imbalance, including increasing awareness of family planning, are still facing several obstacles.
This picture taken on November 24, 2015 shows a man (L) setting out more stools as foreign tourists and locals have drinks and food at tables set up on the pavement in the old quarter of Hanoi. Photo: AFP
Nevertheless, Hung said, more people should be informed of the consequences of gender imbalance, as well as of the Population Ordinance issued by the National Assembly Standing Committee in 2003, which forbids gender selection of foetuses.
Hoang Duc Hanh, deputy director of the Ha Noi Department of Health, said that even though a Government Decree No 114 issued in 2006 regulated penalties for couples that gave birth to the third child, these were only applicable to Party members, not other citizens.
Moreover, the decree was rendered void after the Decree No. 176 was issued in 2013. This regulated penalties for medical wrongdoing but not for couples having more than two children.
Hanh said reducing gender imbalance is a long-term mission that needs the entire political system to get involved.
Family planning criteria should be integrated into common goals that all citizens agree to, like community conventions or the criteria for villages to be recognised as “cultural villages,” he said.