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)
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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs