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

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs