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Earlier this month, a group of eleven university students in Beijing got together to hold a small protest. Their mission was not to push for less homework or fewer partying restrictions, but to advocate for something extremely important to their bodily health and overall well-being–better sex education throughout schools in China.  

The eleven demonstrators congregated at Beijing Normal University, a prestigious public research university in the nation’s capital. ‘Normal’ refers to what is now called a ‘teacher’s college’, though that’s not the focus of this school in modern times.

Their campaign came about from a shared desire to be more informed about leading safer sex lives. “We would like to see sex education based on gender equality and respect for different sexual values,” said Dada, one of the students at the event. She also said that her own experiences with sex education were abysmal, and her boyfriend’s were even worse–he barely knew anything about menstruation, and even thought that menstrual blood was blue because of how it’s portrayed in advertisements for sanitary pads.

There are frightening numbers to back up her claims of an utter lack of sex education in China’s schools. In 2012, the National Health and Family Planning Commission found that approximately 13 million Chinese women underwent abortions each year, half of whom were university students. Other survey-based research from Sinotrust found that only 50 percent of Chinese college students reported using contraceptives during sex.

▼Note the (we assume) symbolically placed watermelon.

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Implementation of suitable programs is difficult due to prevailing attitudes about sex as a taboo subject in China. That doesn’t mean that the eleven demonstrating university students are the only advocates for sex education, however. According to the English-language site of news agency Xinhua, a joint survey between the newspaper and the Maple Women’s Psychological Counseling Center found that of 1,100 parents of grade-school aged children, 90 percent of them would support better sex education in school curriculums. Furthermore, 43.5 percent said that there were no sex education classes at all in their child’s school, and only one-fifth of them had taught their children what to do in the event of sexual assault.

The topic of sexual assault has more recently risen to prominence in the context of talks about the mental health status of students and after startling research revealed in 2007 that unprotected sex was attributed to 90 percent of new cases of HIV infection in China, which had gone up 12 percent in just two years. In contrast, other modes of transmission such as blood transfusions, plasma donations, and drug injections have seen significant percentage drops over the past few decades. Furthermore, according to an article from iCrossChina,

“Most Chinese universities have no sex education course, but they do experience suicides in cases of unrequited love or relationship disputes, campus sexual assaults, and abortions,”

making the case for better sex education not just a fight for knowledge of physical health, but also a fight to save lives.  

▼”Adult videos can’t be our sex education”

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This writer is by no means an expert in the Chinese educational system, so it would be nice to hear the thoughts of some of our Chinese readers–did you receive decent sex education where you grew up? Perspectives from other countries are just as welcome!

Sources:  iCrossChina, Shanghaiist 1, 2, 3, Xinhua
Images: iCrossChina