Addressing gender-biased sex selection in Vietnam

March 08, 2022 | 11:33
Multi-sectoral cooperation among all parties is required to challenge gender stereotypes and address the issue of gender-biased sex selection (GBSS) in the nation. Central to this is to promote gender equality while raising the importance of giving birth to girls and recasting men’s roles in society.
Addressing gender-biased sex selection and promoting men’s roles in social and family settings
Discussing sex selection and roles of men in society

Discussions were held in Hanoi on March 7 to call for stronger action. They were organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

GBSS is considered to result from the preference for male children, fertility limitations, and the availability of reproductive technology.

Under the framework of addressing GBSS and related harmful practices in Vietnam, and funded by the government of Norway, the dialogue shared innovative approaches to change the socio-cultural norms leading to these issues.

Men’s roles and their participation in the promotion of gender equality were also discussed.

Joining the meeting were senior officials from a number of government ministries, social organisations, and research institutions. Representatives from some provincial authorities also joined the session virtually.

The discussion focused on the findings of a review conducted by UNFPA, the General Statistics Office, and the Ministry of Health using the 2019 Population and Housing Census and data relating to interventions.

The country has legal frameworks and national programmes to promote gender equality, and to prohibit GBSS. However, there are some policy gaps and law enforcement challenges.

The current policies focus largely on health interventions, and less on socio-cultural measures. Improvements to the coordination mechanisms among different ministries are therefore essential.

Communication in the future should aim to transform social and gender norms with regard to the preference for boys, and the consequences of GBSS. Young people should be targeted, especially males, using traditional methods along with digital technology and social networks.

To open the dialogue, the deputy director general of the General Office of Population and Family Planning, Pham Vu Hoang stressed, “If sex imbalance at birth continues and cannot be controlled, it will negatively impact the country’s socio-economic development. Over the past years, Vietnam has implemented many policies to address this issue, as well as others relating to population and development. These strategies aim to gradually address the increasing imbalance of sex ratio at birth, thus allowing it to reach a natural level.”

In her opening remarks, Grete Lochen, the Norwegian Ambassador in Vietnam, said that the government of Norway was proud to partner with UNFPA and support the government to stop gender-biased sex selection.

Lochen added, “The dialogue today was another opportunity to discuss the best international practices to address this situation. It is not only to raise public awareness but also to call for behavioural change. Norway gives high priority to tackling harmful practices, and promoting the rights of women and girls.”

Naomi Kitahara, the UNFPA Representative for Vietnam, reiterated the organisation’s ongoing support for implementing legal and policy frameworks on GBSS.

“I want to appeal for more participation among men and boys to end gender-biased sex selection,” said Kitahara.

“As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, it is important to recognise that women are often under pressure from their family to have a son rather than a daughter. In this situation, men’s understanding and support for women can make a significant difference. Vietnam has done a lot to stop GBSS in the past years, but the skewed sex ratio at birth remains the third highest in Asia. We need stronger action to address the fertility measures where the number, spacing, and timing of children can be chosen, in line with the principles of the International Conference on Population and Development.”

Data from the 2019 Population and Housing Census estimates that around 46,000 fewer girls are born every year in Vietnam as a result of sex selection.

It is also estimated that among those aged 15 to 49, there will be 1.5 million excess males by 2034, which could further increase to almost 2.5 million by 2059 if the current sex imbalance does not decline. The nation’s unbalanced sex ratio at birth reached close to 112 male births for every 100 females in 2019, while the biologically normal ratio is nearer to 105 boys per 100 girls.

By Nguyen Huong

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