Girl shortage spreads to Vietnam

Where will the rest of Asia find brides to import?


Katharine Mieszkowski
November 1, 2007 11:23PM (UTC)

Add Vietnam to the growing list of countries, such as China and India, that are experiencing shortages of baby girls, as ancient cultural preferences for sons meet modern ultrasound and amniocentesis technologies.

Currently, 110 boys are born for every 100 girls in Vietnam, according to a new report from the United Nations Population Fund, as covered by the Associated Press. That was the ratio in China about 10 years ago, where the government's one-child policy has driven much of the sex selection through abortions and old-fashioned infanticide.

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Those ratios can quickly grow much more extreme. In 2005, China estimated that there were 120 boys born for every 100 girls, with India logging 108 boys to 100 girls in 2001. However, some regions in India have rates of 120 boys, and in some Chinese provinces there have been reports of a staggering 130 boys for every 100 girls born. The gender ratio would naturally be about 105 boys to 100 girls, according to the United Nations.

In neighboring countries, such as Taiwan, South Korea and China, there's already an increase in men importing brides when these lopsided generations come of marriageable age. Many of those brides are coming from Vietnam, which now predicts it will see its own population of females dwindle in the coming decades, so there won't be as many eligible Vietnamese women to seek mates elsewhere.

Thankfully, there's some new evidence that the trend of selecting for boys is now reversing in South Korea. But the U.N. predicts that if these practices continue in China, India, Vietnam and Nepal, there will be an increase in violence against women, sex trafficking and social tensions, as many poor men are forced to live as lonely bachelors.

"It's very difficult to imagine what's going to be the exact impact of these missing girls in 20 years," one of the authors of the report, Christophe Guilmoto, told the Associated Press. "No human society that we know has faced a similar problem."


Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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