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Unbalanced sex ratio: 40,800 female births estimated to be missing every year

13:43 | 18/07/2020

40,800 FEMALE BIRTHS are estimated to be missing every year in Vietnam, as shown in the unbalanced Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB), according to the State of the World Population Report 2020 launched on July 17 in Hanoi.

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unbalanced sex ratio 40800 female births estimated to be missing every year
Naomi Kitahara, chief representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Vietnam, has called for an end to the preference for boys over girls in the country, to promote gender equality. Photo: UNFPA Vietnam/ Nguyen Minh Duc

Titled “Against my will, defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality”, the report was released worldwide on June 30 and highlights at least 19 rites - ranging from breast ironing to virginity testing, are considered human rights violations, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Vietnam report, which focuses on the three most prevalent ones: female genital mutilation, child marriage, and extreme bias against daughters in favour of sons.

“Harmful practices against girls cause profound and lasting trauma, robbing them of their right to reach their full potential,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem.

This year, an estimated 4.1 million girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation. Today, 33,000 girls under age 18 will be forced into marriages, usually to much older men. Also, an extreme preference for sons over daughters in some countries has fueled gender-biased sex selection or extreme neglect that leads to their death as children, resulting in 140 million “missing females.”

Some harmful practices are waning in countries where they have been most prevalent. But because of population growth in these countries, the number of girls subjected to them will actually rise in the coming decades, if urgent action is not taken.

Decades of experience and research show that bottom-up, grassroots approaches are better at bringing change, the UNFPA report states. “We must tackle the problem by tackling the root causes, especially gender-biased norms. We must do a better job of supporting communities’ own efforts to understand the toll these practices are taking on girls and the benefits that accrue to the whole of society by stopping them,” said Dr. Kanem.

The report published in Vietnam focuses on gender selection on the basis of gender bias, which has existed for decades with a preference for boys over girls.

The skewed SRB in Vietnam was first identified in 2004, and since 2005, the imbalance towards more boys has rapidly increased and reached 111.5 boys per 100 girls in 2019 as indicated in the 2019 Census, against the biologically “normal” SRB of 105. The State of the World Population Report 2020 estimates that for Vietnam alone, 40,800 female births are estimated to be missing every year, as shown in the unbalanced SRB.

unbalanced sex ratio 40800 female births estimated to be missing every year
At the launch, UNFPA affirmed their strong commitment and called for urgent action to bring an end to this harmful practice.

In Vietnam, gender equality has improved over the past decades, but gender-biased sex selection as a harmful practice remains persistent in society. It has been identified as the major cause of an imbalance in the SRB in Vietnam.

“We must put an end to son preference and the undervaluing of girls in our efforts to promote gender equality in the country. Vietnam is making progress, but the progress must be accelerated within the context of the Decade of Action for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative in Vietnam. “In this regard, men have a special role to play. I call on Vietnamese men to raise the value of girls and demand equal treatment and equal rights. In particular, we need men and boys to support this effort.”

Speaking at the ceremony, Pham Ngoc Tien, head of the Department of Gender Equality at the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said the Vietnamese Government considers gender equality a goal and a driver of sustainable development, adding that it is completing a legal framework to better the work.

“We have built and continued to improve the legal framework to better work in this important and relatively unfamiliar area. However, gender equality remains persistent in the society due to the influence of Confucianism. SRB imbalance is deeply rooted in the social norms and practices which reinforce son preference and the low value of women and girls. Bringing SRB the natural balance is also one of the goals of the National Strategy on Gender Equality for the 2021 - 2030 period that we are developing to submit to the Prime Minister for approval in 2020.”

Evidence shows that this demographic imbalance is a result of pre-natal sex selection based on son preference, which is deeply rooted in the traditional culture in many countries in the world including Vietnam. Son preference is a powerful manifestation of gender inequality./.

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