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Solving bias against girls

Update: March, 13/2013 - 08:51

by Thanh Hai

The Ministry of Health's General Office of Population and Family Planning has stirred up public opinion by proposing a VND3 trillion (US$123million) project to correct the gender imbalance of babies between now and 2020.

The office proposes that the Government support all-girl families financially as well as priorities be given to females in school entrance exams, school fees, job training and employment.

This support aims to encourage families to have girls instead of boys to balance the population.

The project is seen as one of the necessary measures to correct the country's birth imbalance, which last year was 112.3 boys to 100 girls.

Office director Duong Quoc Trong said VND3 trillion (US$142.8 million) would be a worthy investment for the country, because it would be a necessary expenditure to deal with any socio-economic or national security due to the high birth imbalance.

"Economical measures would be very important to handle the problem. We should not only solve the sex equality issue but also prioritise policies for woman," said Trong.

By implementing the policy, people would feel that the Government encouraged them to have a girl instead of a boy. Other economic benefits of school fees and health insurance would also aim to encourage parents to stop trying to have a boy at any cost, according to Trong.

"Without taking drastic measures, the country would have a redundant 2.3-4.3 million boys in 20-30 years' time."

However, many Vietnamese worry whether or not the money would benefit all-girl families and how the policy could balance the current imbalance.

Nguyen Cam Lien, a 31-year-old mother who has one boy and one girl, said she was is unhappy with the policy. Lien said it would create discrimination between her daughter and those who are born in all-girl families.

"My girl would feel disadvantaged or discriminated against because she would receive no priority from the Government compared to her female mates who are in families with all girls," said Lien.

"It would be not fair if a policy creates discrimination between girls. The Government should consider carefully a policy relating to millions of families nationwide."

Nguyen Duc Ha, a car salesman who has two girls in Ha Noi, said that besides the thought of valuing men above women, both all-girl and all-boy families naturally want to have more children if they want to have both sons and daughters.

So he would rather have a boy than receive money for stopping at two girls and giving up his desire to have a son.

Director of the Central Communication and Education Commission's Social Affairs Department, Dao Van Dung, said the policy should be considered carefully before being implemented because it would make all-girl families feel more inferior. In addition, the policy could discriminate against all-boy families.

Nguyen Thi Dieu Hong, an officer of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs' Gender Equality Department, said the health ministry should heed the public feedback, especially from all-girl or all-boy families.

"Personally, I think that this is an unrealistic policy and it is not necessary to promulgate a policy against the benefits of the majority of people," Hong said.

Doctor Nguyen Dinh Cu, director of the Institute of Population and Social Affairs, said he was worried about the policy's effectiveness.

According to Cu, Viet Nam should carefully study the lesson learnt from China when it tried to control gender imbalance by providing money to families having a girl. The sex ratio at birth there had increased from 115 boys/100 girls in 1990 to 122.8 boys/100 girls in 2010. Economical measures had failed to stop Chinese families wanting to have a boy, especially in light of China's policy that each family have one child only.

Viet Nam prohibits the use of ultrasound to diagnose the sex of a baby in the womb. However, no doctor or medical unit have been reported or punished, although the health sector affirms that up to 83 per cent of urban women and 75 per cent of those in rural areas had known the baby's gender before giving birth.

In 1997, the population and family planning sector drafted a plan for handling violations creating gender imbalance. However, many of the proposals, including financial sanctions, have still not been implemented.

Other policies were amended soon after being promulgated due to lack of effectiveness and feasibility. A policy should be considered cafefully, based on its benefits to the country and each couple.

The population and family planning management sector seems to forget that a gender policy would likely become a double-edged sword. It would heal the hurt among all-girl families but also deepen the sadness of all-boy famillies, and the belief that males are valued more than females would deepen. — VNS


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