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September-October 2011, Promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment is Key to Correcting Imbalanced Sex Ratios at Birth

September-October 2011, Promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment is Key to Correcting Imbalanced Sex Ratios at Birth

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Published by Philip Nalangan
The Imbalance of Sex Ratios at Birth (SRB) is an increasing concern in some South, East and Central Asian countries, where about 117 million women and girls are reported as “missing”, mostly in India and China.
The Imbalance of Sex Ratios at Birth (SRB) is an increasing concern in some South, East and Central Asian countries, where about 117 million women and girls are reported as “missing”, mostly in India and China.

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Published by: Philip Nalangan on Oct 30, 2011
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Monthly update rom UNFPA in Asia and the Pacif c
PromotingGender Equalityand Women’sEmpowerment
 is Key to CorrectingImbalanced SexRatios at Birth
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   P   h  o   t  o  :   U   N   P   h  o   t  o   /   M  a  r   k   G  a  r   t  e  n
Ending Gender ImbalancesRemains a Prioritypage 3Supporting AfghanMaternal, Newborn Healthpage 4Midwives Are Key to SafeDeliveries in Afghanistanpage 6UNFPA Pledges FinancialSupport to Bangladeshpage 8More Bangladeshi MothersGet Vital Childbirth Carepage 10Midwives in Bangladesh AreGoing Back to Schoolpage 12
Urgent Need to Save PregnantWomen in Sindhpage 13APRO Rolls Out HumanitarianGuidelinespage 14Debate Highlights Youth’sReproductive Health Needspage 15Strengthening the Voice ofTomorrow’s Leaderspage 16European ParliamentariansTour Indonesiapage 17Men Too Can Make aDifferencepage 18
The biologically normalsex ratio at birth rangesrom 104 to 106 boysper 100 girls. However,ratios as high as 115-120boys per 100 girls havebeen observed in China(118.1 in 2009), India(110.6 in 2006-2008),Armenia (115.8 in 2008)and Azerbaijan (117.6 in2009). In Viet Nam, theratio was 111.2 boys per100 girls in 2010.According tointernational andnational experts, thelevel o SRB increases inaccordance with birthorder. For example, inIndia in 2001, the SRBwas 111 or the rst birth,112 or the second, and up to 116 or the third birth. InChina in 2005, the SRB was 108.4 or the rst birth,143.2 or the second, and 156.4 or the third. In VietNam in 2009 the SRB was 110.2 or the rst birth andslightly lower, at 109, or the second birth. However,or the third or later births the SRB was above 115.This observation suggests that prenatal sex selectioncould have been adopted by a number o coupleseven during their rst pregnancies.One o the main actors behind this SRB rise relatesto son preerence, which is deeply rooted in manyAsian countries or cultural, social and economicreasons. Daughters may be seen as a liability,especially where dowries must be paid. Older parentslargely rely on sons or support in terms o healthcare and living expenditures. And sons may beneeded to perorm last rites or other rituals relatedancestor worship.In addition, as many national policies supportreductions in amily size, many individuals havebegun to use ultrasound and other sex selectiontechnology. Furthermore, there are many socialconsequences or women who give birth to anunwanted girl child. In some cases, this can includeviolence, abandonment, divorce or even death.
Promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment is Key to CorrectingImbalanced Sex Ratios at Birth
   P   h  o   t  o  :   W   i   l   l   i  a  m   A .   R  y  a  n   /   U   N   F   P   A
The Imbalance o Sex Ratios at Birth(SRB) is an increasing concern in some South, Eastand Central Asian countries, where about 117 millionwomen and girls are reported as “missing”, mostlyin India and China. According to the most optimisticscenario, i the SRB levels were to come back tonormalcy within the next ten years, men in Chinaand India will still ace a serious “marriage squeeze”,as many o them would not be able to nd a partnerdue to a shortage o women o marriageable age orseveral decades. These ndings were presented inHa Noi at the international workshop on “SkewedSex Ratios at Birth: Addressing the Issue and theWay Forward”, organized on 5-6 October by theGovernment o Viet Nam and the United Nations.“I highly appreciate the initiative o the Ministryo Health and the United Nations in Viet Nam inorganizing this workshop. I hope that the experiencesand lessons learned rom other countries will providea good opportunity to help Viet Nam to reshape ourpolicy in amily development and to build an eectivesocial and health care system to bring the sex ratio atbirth back to normal,” said Viet Nam’s Deputy PrimeMinister Nguyen Thien Nhan at the opening o theworkshop.
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The biologically normal sex ratio at birth ranges rom 104 to 106 boys per 100 girls. However, in Viet Nam, the ratiowas 111.2 boys per 100 girls in 2010.
Monthly update rom UNFPA in Asia and the Pacif c
“There is huge pressure on women toproduce sons, which not only directly aectswomen’s sexual and reproductive lives withimplications or their health and survival, butalso puts women in a position where theymust perpetuate the lower status o girlsthrough son preerence,” said Nobuko Horibe,Director or Asia-Pacic o UNFPA.A skewed SRB will aect the population sexratio structure in uture, which, in turn, willresult in a situation where there is an excesso males in society. Scarcity o women couldincrease pressure on women to marry at ayounger age, oten sacricing educationalopportunities, there may be a rise in demandor sex work, and tracking networks mayalso expand in response to this imbalance.“Governments should give top priority todeveloping and promoting programmes andpolicies to support the girl child in areas suchas inheritance laws, dowries and nancial andother social protection in old age that refecta commitment to human rights and genderequality,” added Horibe.Governments in aected countries haveundertaken a number o measures to haltincreasing sex ratio imbalances. However,renewed and concerted eorts are nowneeded by governments and civil society,including eorts to address the deeply rootedgender discrimination against women andgirls which lies at the heart o sex selection.“To keep up the momentum toward achievingMillennium Development Goal 3 on genderequality in Viet Nam, eorts need to bededicated to changing couples’ traditionalpreerence or male children, as well astowards empowering women’s position inthe amily and society as a whole. Morequalitative research is also needed so we canbetter understand the underlying social andcultural actors behind the SRB imbalance.This will, in turn, provide a oundation orimproving education activities and otherinterventions,” said Eamonn Murphy, UnitedNations Resident Coordinator a.i in Viet Nam.
Ending Gender Imbalances Must RemainInternational Priority, Says UNFPA’s Asia-Pacic Director
Warns that 117 million women now “missing” in Asia
“Joint international and national actions to endprenatal sex selection and discrimination against womenshould remain a priority or all,” Nobuko Horibe, theDirector o UNFPA’s Asia and Pacic Regional Oce, saidat the opening o the workshop on “Skewed Sex Ratios atBirth: Addressing the Issue and the Way Forward”. Heldon 5-6 October, the international orum aims to nd moreways to reduce sex ratio imbalances.“We must join orces to ensure that sex selection isunderstood as discrimination against women and girlsand should end,” Horibe said in her speech to expertsrom 11 Asian, Eastern European and Caucasian nations.“We must accelerate our eorts and give priority todeveloping programmes and policies that oster normsand an attitude o ‘zero tolerance’ or discrimination,harmul attitudes and unethical practices, such as prenatalsex selection. Gender equality is at the very heart o eachcountry’s successul development.”Horibe told participants that some 117 million womenwere “missing” in Asia today and suggested ways orward.“Improving gender equality and supporting nationalpolicies to address sex ratio imbalance require urgent,concerted eorts by all segments o the governmentand society,” she stressed. “It requires strong politicalcommitment as well as downstream actions at thecommunity level to promote behaviour change and toaddress complex socio-cultural realities. That is why weare all here today. By bringing together our experiences
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Nobuko Horibe (let) addressing the workshop
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