News / Asia

Vietnam Mulls Cash Handouts to Families with Daughters

 Tran Trinh is an educated and well-off woman, but she had hoped her daughter Minh would turn out to be a son. (VOA - L. Hoang)
Tran Trinh is an educated and well-off woman, but she had hoped her daughter Minh would turn out to be a son. (VOA - L. Hoang)
TEXT SIZE - +
— When we walk into Tran Trinh’s house, she is lying in a pea-green hammock, breastfeeding her 8-month-old child. Having replaced her job in accounting with that of full-time mom, Trinh rarely leaves home. She dedicates most of her time to Minh - a daughter who, a year ago, she had hoped would be a boy.
 
Trinh, 32, loves her daughter now, but had wanted a son because her first child had turned out to be a girl, too. “For Asians, we think each family should have at least one son,” she said.
 
It’s this son-centered mentality that the Vietnamese government is looking to tackle now with a new policy to pay families who have daughters. Proponents say the $123 million idea will help bring Vietnam’s sex ratio at birth, now 112 boys for every 100 girls, closer to the global norm of roughly 102 to 106 boys. In the northern Red River Delta province of Hung Yen, the rate has been as high as 130.7 boys to 100 girls. The proposal also would offer incentives like health insurance and favored treatment in school admissions and hiring.
 
“In Sweden we have seen that economic incentives do work,” said Ambassador Camilla Mellander, who co-chairs Vietnam’s informal Gender Policy Coordination group. She said in Sweden, where the birth rate has been dropping in recent decades, parental leave, child allowance, and other state benefits have encouraged Swedes to enlarge their families.
 
This is not Vietnam’s first try at leveling out the gender ratio. In 2003, it banned sex selection through ultrasounds and abortions, technologies that gained traction in the 1990s. But the ban is widely flouted because of the low cost (as little as $5 for an ultrasound) and the low enforcement of monetary and licensing penalties. The practice has left Vietnam with what many view are alarmingly high abortion figures, up to 75 terminated pregnancies for every 100 births.
 
Before the arrival of ultrasounds, couples would try to conceive males through scheduled sex, “traditional medicines, particular diets, and the assistance of fortune tellers,” the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) observed in a 2011 report.
 
Vietnam’s latest measure already is meeting resistance from those who say compensating families would deepen class divides. The Laborer newspaper wrote that it would have little impact on wealthier families, who don’t need the money and who are more likely to afford ultrasounds and abortions.
 
Mellander said the initiative could work, but must comprise part of a more “holistic” solution, as in South Korea.
 
UNFPA wrote in a briefing, “In the only known successful campaign against sex selection, the Republic of Korea targeted healthcare providers and religious leaders with ethics-based arguments. Its sex ratio at birth fell from 116 boys to 100 girls in 1991 to near normal in recent years.”
 
Ancient tradition has deeply embedded a  preference for sons across patriarchal Asia. Confucianism teaches the woman to defer to her father, husband, and then son, in that order, while the man upholds the glory of the extended family, through his financial success and through the legacy of his last name.
 
In South Korea the gender imbalance emerged in the 1980s, which was about the same for China and India. But the world's two most populous nations, China and India, continue to struggle with ratios of 118 and 110 boys, respectively, per 100 girls. Like Vietnam, both countries have passed legislation against sex-selective abortions. But pressure is perhaps more acute in China, where the one-child policy limits families’ chances to bear sons. Vietnam does not officially impose such a quota but has set a national goal of 2.1 children per family, the number required to sustain a society.
 
Mellander warned that if Vietnam and others don’t reign in this trend of favoring males, they could see an uptick in trafficking and sex work as marriage rates drop. Vietnam already sends more brides to South Korea than any other country, with high volumes also going to Taiwan and China.
 
Researchers Daniele Belanger and Tran Giang Linh interviewed “sending families” in the Mekong River Delta region and concluded in a 2011 academic paper, “Getting married is difficult for many single men in the village due to the perceived greater value of foreign men, higher bride-prices and a shortage of potential brides.”
 
By sending their daughters to marry abroad, or aborting them at home, Vietnamese families are creating a perfect storm of dire demographics, according to experts.
 
“If there aren't drastic solutions, the sex ratio at birth rate will be 125/100 and by 2030, Vietnam will lack approximately 3-4 million brides,” the General Office for Population and Family Planning wrote on its website.
 
In the online posting, the department also suggested monthly clubs and workshops to reinforce for women that they don't have to have sons. As for daughters, their academic achievements should be highlighted, the office wrote.
 
Other systemic fixes, such as strong pensions so families don’t rely on sons for support in old age, would help, too, Mellander said.
 
Gender researcher Doan Thi Ngoc says Vietnamese continue to believe women must have a son. (VOA - L. Hoang)Gender researcher Doan Thi Ngoc says Vietnamese continue to believe women must have a son. (VOA - L. Hoang)
x
Gender researcher Doan Thi Ngoc says Vietnamese continue to believe women must have a son. (VOA - L. Hoang)
Gender researcher Doan Thi Ngoc says Vietnamese continue to believe women must have a son. (VOA - L. Hoang)
Doan Thi Ngoc, an instructor at Hoa Sen University's Gender and Society Research Center, agrees that Vietnam needs a more “comprehensive” approach to gender equality. Media and education would help change male-centric culture and thinking, she said, because otherwise, policy reforms will just remain ineffective pieces of paper.
 
“Those are really advanced laws, they’re wonderful,” Ngoc said. “But why, when you put them into practice, do things go another way?”

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid