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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     6  October  2011                    

Sex selection rises in Asian countries

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Experts yesterday called for Asian countries to intensify work to address gender imbalance that could threaten social stability in the future.

Speaking at a two-day international conference to address the issue, Nobuko Horibe, director of the United Nations Population Fund in Asia-Pacific, said gender discrimination had fuelled alarming sex selection trends in a number of Asian countries.

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan stressed in his opening address that similar to other Asian countries, the Vietnamese government expressed significant concern over the country's rising sex ratio at birth, which could reach 1:1.15 in favor of males by 2015 without comprehensive intervention.

According to Christopher Guilmoto, an international technical expert at the Institute of Research for Development in Paris, experts estimated that today at least 117 million women across Asia were "missing", largely due to the current sex ratio imbalance at birth.

The phenomenon "missing women of Asia" was first brought to the world's attention in the 1990s by Indian economist Amartya Sen, referring to the fact that their potential existence had been eliminated through sex selection abortion or female infanticide.

Guilmoto's studies showed that the total gender gap in 14 Asian countries, including Viet Nam, South Korea, Singapore, India and China, had increased from 66 million in 1950 to the current level of 117 million. Three major factors that caused this, Guilmoto said, were sex selection technology, son preference and fertility decline, even though there had been no comprehensive studies to determine how much each factor contributed to the problem.

Nguyen Van Tan, Deputy General Director of the General Office for Population and Family Planning in Viet Nam, said the country was likely to experience "a surplus of males and a shortage of females" of a marriageable age by 2025-2030 if the situation was allowed to continue.

In 2000, Viet Nam's sex ratio at birth (SRB) was still at normal levels and estimated at 106.2 male births per 100 female births. Latest statistics from related government agencies showed that number increased to 111.2 in 2010. The Red River Delta region currently records the highest SRB, at 117.1 for urban areas and 111.5 for rural areas. Notably, the trend of sex-selection at birth had spread to lower-income groups, statistics showed.

According to Tan, the problem would lead to serious demographic and socioeconomic problems, including severe disruption in the marriage system due to a surplus of men, pressure on women to marry at a younger age, and rising demand for sex work and trafficking.

In Vietnam, Tan said the reasons behind the increase had to do with the "son preference" mindset that had been implanted in Vietnamese society for generations, and underdeveloped social protection for the elderly which led to those without sons feeling insecure.

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AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
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