Illegal books purport to tell parents how to choose baby's gender

Update: May, 05/2009 - 00:00

Illegal books purport to tell parents how to choose baby’s gender


Women in the Khanh Hoa Province receive reproductive health information. Regulations prohibiting prenatal gender selection are being implemented. — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc

HA NOI — It is quite easy to find guide books for parents to follow prenatal gender selection methods at bookstores throughout the capital city, according to Nguyen Thi Huong, a mother of two girls living in Ha Noi.

Huong, who is currently pregnant with her third child, said her second child wasn’t a boy because she did not use books that guide prenatal gender selection.

"This time my husband and I followed a book, given to me by my mother-in-law, which indicated that we needed to eat a lot of salty food and avoid drinking milk before becoming pregnant," said Huong.

A latest statistics from the Ministry of Health (MoH) showed that nearly 270,000 babies were born in the first quarter of this year. More than 27,400 of them were third children, a 1 per cent increase compared with 2008.

MoH reported that the number of third-child births could be up to nearly 60,400 by the end of June.

Southern Kien Giang and Hau Giang provinces, northern Lai Chau and Dien Bien provinces, and central Quang Ngai Province take the lead in areas with families choosing to have third child.

Doctor Dao Thu Hien from the National Obstetrics Hospital said the gender of a child depended more on the parents rather than what they eat or drink. "There is no research proving the rate of successfully choosing gender by following books."

A national ordinance prohibits gender selection behaviours, including dissemination and popularising methods through talking, writing, translating and publishing relevant books, documents, pictures and recordings.

In Ha Noi, prenatal gender selection books are sold at many bookstores on many streets including Trang Tien Street, the capital city’s book centre, and even on pavements.

Chief of HCM City’s Department of Population and Family Planning To Thi Kim Hoa said her department had recently evaluated the content of ten books sent by the municipal Department of Information and Communications. All books violated the Ordinance on Population because they provided guidance on how a couple could give birth to a boy.

"We have asked inspectors from the General Office of Population and Family Planning to find solutions for such books," said Hoa.

Head of HCM City Book Distribution Company (FAHASA)’s Business Office Pham Thi Hoa said almost 40 FAHASA bookstores were selling prenatal gender selection books. The company receives thousands of book titles everyday, making it difficult to check the content of all of them.

Therefore, when the company signs contracts with publishing houses and book suppliers, the company always ask them to take legal responsibility for the content and copyright of the books, said Hoa.

"If book content is prohibited by the Ordinance on Population, FAHASA would return the books to the publishing houses and suppliers," said Hoa.

Chief of the Ministry of Information and Communications’ Publishing Department Nguyen Kiem said his department issued documents to prohibit the publishing of books on prenatal gender selection in 2005.

Kiem said the newly-found books could have been licensed before the Ordinance on Population came into effect in 2004. The publishing houses continued to reprint books with the old licence. "This also violates regulations because the publishing licence is valid for one year."

Deputy head of HCM City Information and Communications Department’s Press and Publishing Office Nguyen Thi Minh Phuong said her office would collect books that guide prenatal gender selection and issue fines in accordance with regulations.

To prevent gender inequality, MoH has asked its municipal and provincial branches to co-ordinate with the General Office of Statistics to issue an annual report on the number of girls and boys born in their localities.

Cities and provinces are required to implement regulations on prohibiting prenatal gender selection behaviours, especially the use of ultrasound to determine the gender of the foetus in order to opt for an abortion. All illegal services related to guided births will be examined and fined. — VNS