HA NOI (VNS) — Medical workers who help women to determine the sex of their child during the early stages of pregnancy before birth will be fined VND10-20 million (US$470-950), 30 per cent higher than before.
It is one of several new regulations included in a draft decree on administrative punishment for violations in the health sector. The Ministry of Health is gathering public opinion on the draft before a final version is submitted to the PM.
If approved, the decree would replace the current version issued in 2006, said Nguyen Van Tan, deputy director of the General Office for Population and Family Planning.
"The new decree will have more detailed regulations than its predecessor, especially regarding baby gender selection at birth," said Tan.
Besides state inspectors, population inspectors will also have the authority to issue fines for violations.
"The Ministry of Health is taking drastic measures in order to control the sex ratio at birth, which is considered a serious problem for the population sector," said Tan.
The country's present sex ratio at birth is 111.9 boys/100 girls. It is forecast that in 30 years time, about 4 million Vietnamese men will not be able to find a wife, according to statistics from the office.
The draft decree also proposed a fine of VND5-10 million ($230-470) for people that provide gender selection services.
However, many are sceptical of the draft decree's practicality. Nguyen Mai Phuong from Ha Noi is 36 weeks pregnant with a baby girl.
She said that she knew the gender at just 12 weeks.
"The medical worker did not say directly if it was a boy or a girl, but he did say the baby would be like its mother, so I drew my own conclusions," she said.
Inspectors were also not on hand to ensure medical staff were conforming with the regulations.
Phuong suggested that ultrasound departments should be installed with tape-recorders and cameras to supervise medical workers' activities.
"Police should also carry out random checks," she said.
Director of the General Office for Population and Family Planning Duong Quoc Trong told a local newspaper that the Vietnamese language was diversified so it would be difficult to detect if medical workers violated the rules.
A survey conducted by the office showed that 70-80 per cent of pregnant women knew their babies' gender before birth, and in Ha Noi that figure was nearly 100 per cent.
Further surveys carried out in the southern city of Can Tho and the northern province of Hung Yen which have the highest gender imbalance showed that 80 per cent of men said that doctors readily revealed the gender of their babies.
Many private ultrasound centres have been set up specifically offering the service, but only five in the Hong (Red) River Delta have received fines.
Chief inspector of the Ha Noi Department of Health Nguyen Viet Cuong said that despite the ban, many medical stations still informed pregnant women of their babies' gender, and inspectors were powerless to do anything about it. — VNS