Duong Quoc Trong, deputy director general of the general Office for Population and Family Planning, blamed the rising imbalance on a cultural preference for boys who can "continue the bloodline." He added that the belief that boys can better care for parents as they age has exacerbated the use of abortions to select for sex.

In an effort to stop the practice, Vietnamese law has prohibited doctors from revealing a fetus's sex since 2003. But doctors commonly ignore the law.

The birth rate of boys had been increasing in recent decades, but the past few years have seen a more rapid rise. In 1999, the birth rate was considered to be close to the natural rate _ around 107 boys for every 100 girls _ Trong said. But since 2006, the ratio of boys to girls has steadily risen above normal levels, he said.

Last year, the birth ratio in Vietnam was 112 boys for every 100 girls, an imbalance similar to that of China 20 years ago.

Trong said that China's current imbalance stood at 120 boys to 100 girls despite measures applied by the government. The rate varies in different provinces in China, but Beijing has given a similar figure.

"If we don't have intervention measures, we will repeat the same situation as in China," Trong told reporters at a news conference ahead of World Population Day on July 11.

It is estimated that by 2030 some 3 million Vietnamese men might not be able to find wives because of a shortage of women, said Dang Thi Bich Thuan, a spokeswoman for the family planning office.

"They may have to marry women from other countries and that would create many social problems because of cultural differences, and many others cannot find wives that would also create many social vices," she told The Associated Press by phone.

Trong said the government will carry out stricter enforcement of the ban of abortion for sex selection.

The Ministry of Health has recently cracked down on some publishing houses, confiscating more than 2,600 books that claim to describe ways to conceive a male child, including special diets and timing of intercourse and menstruation cycles, Nguyen Dinh Bach, the Ministry of Health's deputy chief inspector, told reporters at the news conference.

The ministry also ordered seven Web sites to remove articles offering such methods, he added.

The Associated Press - July 4, 2009


Vietnam to destroy 30,000 sex-selection books

HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam, concerned that too many boys are being born, will destroy more than 30,000 copies of books instructing couples on how to have a baby of their desired sex, state-linked media said Friday.

The books include 27 titles and were seized last month, VietnamNet online news service said, citing officials.

Articles with the same content have been removed from seven websites, it said.

The United Nations Population Fund noted in May a steadily increasing sex ratio at birth. The ratio is now 112 boys born for every 100 girls in Vietnam, compared with a ratio of 105 or 106 boys before sex selection took place.

The trend will leave millions of Vietnamese men with difficulty finding wives if it continues, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan said, according to state media.

"Obviously, the imbalance in SRB (sex ratio at birth) results from son preference and sex selection abortion practices," the UN said.

Vietnam's prime minister has prohibited all practices of foetal sex determination and selection, the UN noted.

"Furthermore, continued efforts must be made to strengthen public education and to promote gender equality to enhance the important role of women both within families and society," the UN said.

Agence France Presse - July 4, 2009