UNFPA and Norway support to address gender biased sex selection and related practices

April 11, 2020 | 09:20
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The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Norwegian government launched a new programme to support Vietnam to address gender biased sex selection and related harmful practices.
unfpa and norway support to address gender biased sex selection and related practices
The UNFPA and Norway support Vietnam in addressing Gender Biased Sex Selection and related harmful practices

A new programme “Addressing gender biased sex selection and related harmful practices in Vietnam” has been launched by the UNFPA and the Norwegian government for three years from 2020 to 2022. This programme will be co-implemented by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA), the General Office for Population and Family Planning (GOPFP) under the Ministry of Health (MoH), the Vietnam Farmers’ Union, and the Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender, Family, Women and Adolescents (CSAGA).

It aims at supporting the ongoing government efforts to fully implement approved legal and policy frameworks to end gender biased sex selection (GBSS) and includes campaigns through innovative approaches to change social norms and practices which reinforce son preference and the low value of girls, strengthening of the capacities of the media, implementation of the fatherhood programme, and streamlining of the country’s co-ordination mechanisms for GBSS.

Data from the National Population and Housing Census, which Vietnam successfully conducted last year, will also be analysed further to produce a Census Monograph on GBSS. Vietnam’s experience and good practice will be shared in the spirit of South-South collaboration with other countries in the region, especially with Bangladesh and Nepal that have also experienced an imbalanced sex ratio as a result of GBSS.

“I am very pleased that in Vietnam, the UNFPA with the financial support of Norway, is taking the lead in addressing gender biased sex selection in close co-operation with the Vietnamese government. Close partnerships and a holistic approach are key measures for success in addressing harmful practices,” said Grethe Løchen, Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam.

Gender equality in Vietnam has improved over the past decades, but GBSS as a harmful practice remains persistent in society. GBSS has been identified as the major cause of an imbalance in the Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) in Vietnam. The skewed SRB in Vietnam was first identified in 2004, and since 2005, the imbalance towards more boys has rapidly increased and reached 111.5 boys per 100 girls in 2019 as indicated in the 2019 Census.

“The skewed sex ratio at birth in Vietnam is at an alarming level and tends to continue to spread, both in rural and urban areas and in many regions of the country. Therefore, one of the goals of the Vietnam Population Strategy to 2030 is to bring the sex ratio at birth to the natural balance,” said Nguyen Doan Tu, director general of the General Office for Population and Family Planning. “Strengthening gender equality, empowering women and girls, promoting advocacy and communications, raising all people's awareness, and promoting greater participation from men and boys are key solutions to address GBSS.”

Evidence shows that this demographic imbalance is a result of pre-natal sex selection based on son preference, which is deeply rooted in the traditional culture in many countries in the world, including Vietnam. Son preference is a powerful manifestation of gender inequality.

Meanwhile, Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA representative in Vietnam, said that the country is making progress with promoting gender equality, but the progress must be accelerated within the context of the Decade of Action for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “With this new programme, we will support the Government of Vietnam and civil society to speed up the process of change, towards a modern and progressive Vietnam where women and girls have the same opportunities to succeed in society as men and boys do, and where we value our girls as much as we value our boys,” she said.

According to Kitahara, GBSS should be addressed not only to ensure gender equality, but also because the unbalanced sex ratio has significant implications for the population’s marital status and can also contribute to further fertility decline. As such, more intensified nation-wide efforts are needed to fully implement existing legal and policy frameworks to prevent GBSS and promote gender equality more broadly.

By Phuong Hao

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