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Vietnam Sees Alarming Rise In Boy Births Vs. Girls

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For every 100 girls born to Vietnamese families, there are 112 boys born, a disparity in the sex ratio that has been rapidly increasing in recent years, an official said Thursday.

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 implement 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.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

This program aired on July 2, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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