Gender imbalance threatens development in Vietnam

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Sex ratios at birth are becoming increasingly imbalanced in favor of males and more than 4.3 million Vietnamese men will be unable to find a wife by 2050, according to a conference in Hanoi on Saturday.

At the conference on gender imbalance at birth, deputy prime minister Nguyen Thien Nhan said the problem was an "urgent" issue in need of solutions.

The imbalance resulted from Vietnamese families' traditional preference for sons over daughters.

According to a report released at the conference, an imbalance in sex ratios at birth occurred later in Vietnam than in other countries, but at a much faster speed over the past six years.

Nationwide sex ratios at birth in the first three months this year were 112.3 males per 100 females, with a higher imbalance among richer groups, it said.

Most cities and provinces had imbalanced sex ratios at birth in 2011, except for the Central Highlands and north-central and central coast regions.

The sex ratios at birth in 2011 were also high in northern provinces with some exceeding the 120/100 ratio like Hai Duong, Nam Dinh, Thanh Hoa, Lao Cai, Lang Son and Bac Ninh.

The north central province of Quang Binh topped last year's list at 127 males per 100 females.

At the conference, deputy health minister Nguyen Viet Tien warned that the ratios will increase to more than 125/100 by 2020 and continue to increase through at least 2050, unless active interventions are taken to slow down the increase.

With the current pace, the number of males will be by 12 percent more than females among people under 50 years old, equal to 2.3-4.3 million persons.

Many experts at the conference warned that the consequences of the gender imbalance -- such as increases in human trafficking, prostitution and sex crimes -- would threaten sustainable development.

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Duong Quoc Trong, director of the Department for Population and Family Planning, said it would be difficult to maintain a gender balance in the near future.

First, the imbalance must not exceed 133 males per 100 females by 2015 and 115/100 by 2020, he said.

He said the main reason for the imbalance was gender selection among parents as there were not enough measures in place to enforce laws against this practice, which is particularly rampant at private clinics.

So far, only two clinics in Hung Yen have fined after some reporters recorded their violations, he said.

Throng urged that people's awareness of the gender balance needed to be heightened.

But the VND123 billion in funds for population propaganda have been cut and the future is uncertain, he said.

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