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UN call for Asian countries to address gender imbalance


Summary of story from Vietnam News, October 6, 2011

The UN have urged Asian countries to intensify their work to address the gender imbalance which is threatening their social stability.

Gender discrimination, which has fuelled alarming sex selection trends in a number of countries on the continent, was the subject of an international conference in Vietnam.

“This will impact on future generations and will have serious demographic implications as the world population reaches seven billion this month,” said Nobuko Horibe, the United Nations Population Fund director for Asia-Pacific.

“Discrimination against girls anywhere in the world is a social ill and a human rights violation, which must be stopped.”

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.

Guilmoto’s studies showed that the total gender gap in 14 Asian countries, including Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, India and China, had increased from 66 million in 1950 to the current level of 117 million.

The contributing factors include sex selection technology, son preference and fertility decline. However, a comprehensive study has not yet been done to determine how much each factor shaped the problem.

Nguyen Van Tan, Deputy General Director of the General Office for Population and Family Planning in Vietnam, said the problem could lead to serious demographic and socio-economic 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 under-developed social protection for the elderly which led to those without sons feeling insecure.

Luo Mai, director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission of China, said that the Chinese government considered reducing sex ratio at birth as one of the top priorities in its socio-economic development strategy.

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