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

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid