Can Vietnam Solve Its Growing Gender Imbalance?

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Vietnam faces a growing gender imbalance akin to China and India. Deep-rooted preferences for male children, prenatal technology, and a flexible two-child policy contribute to this issue. Traditional views favoring boys persist, influenced by Confucianism’s gender role divisions. In Vietnamese culture, women usually join their husbands’ families upon marriage, further diminishing their role in their own families.

The advent of prenatal testing methods, despite a 2003 ban, allows parents to identify the sex of their unborn child, leading to a preference for male heirs. Moreover, the two-child policy, adopted in 1988, contributes to gender disparity as families prioritize having sons. Female fetuses are frequently aborted, particularly in second or third pregnancies.

This pressure to bear sons places enormous stress on Vietnamese women. Failure to do so often results in mistreatment, especially in rural areas. Paradoxically, the skewed sex ratio has not improved women’s status; rather, it has led to forced marriages, human trafficking, and various forms of violence against women.

Prostitution and sexual exploitation have also surged. The growing population of socially and sexually frustrated men raises the risk of social unrest.

To address this issue, Vietnam needs a comprehensive approach involving legal changes, education, and enhanced welfare. Although equality laws and public awareness campaigns exist, transforming deeply entrenched cultural norms requires strengthening the social system. Integrating more people into the pension system and reducing the financial burden of caring for elderly parents are essential steps.

Without such reforms, the gender mismatch will persist, leading to significant societal challenges and a widening gap between marriageable men and women.

Re-reported from the article published in Deutsche Welle (DW)

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