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Sex education urged among China's minors

2014-05-30 14:41 Xinhua Web Editor: Mo Hong'e

"Which parts of your body should not be touched by strangers?" Ye Xingtong asks a cohort of blushing, giggling girls; a taboo question in rural China.

Using cartoons and interactive games, Ye, a volunteer from the Girls' Protection Project (GPP) under the China Social Assistance Foundation, explains what is "private" and how to prevent sexual assault to students from Hope Primary School (HPS) in Changchun City, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province, the first session of its kind in the locale.

A journalist, Ye believes that teenagers' -- especially girls' -- ability to protect themselves is sadly lacking in a society that likes to think of itself as conservative, while reports of sex crimes are on the rise.

"If they were given proper knowledge of sexual assault, a lot of crimes would never occur," Ye told Xinhua.

Many shocking sexual assaults on minors have come to light in the past few years. Outrage and concern are running high, especially in the approach to Sunday's International Children's Day.

In May 2013, a primary school headmaster and a government employee in south China's Hainan Province were detained by police on suspicion of having sexually assaulted six female students.

Two months later, a 62-year-old primary school teacher in east China's Jiangxi Province was sentenced to 14 years for molesting seven second grade girls and infecting six of them with STDs.

On Tuesday, Beijing Higher People's Court published a white paper on sex crimes threatening minors in Beijing: 80 percent of victims were under the age of 14 in a total of 93 cases.

The government has promised to take a hard line on sex offenders. In 2013, a guideline on sexual crimes against minors threatened "severe penalties" and "minimum tolerance". A normative document to guide law enforcers "embodies the principle of 'maximum protection' for victims and 'minimum tolerance' for offenders," according to the Supreme People's Court.

Punishment aside, sex education is extremely important, but trained educators are thin on the ground, particularly in the countryside where information permeates slowly and children's carers rarely talk about sex. "Left-behind children" are easy targets, according to Fu Dahua, head of HPS.

"Left-behind children are often looked after by grandparents and don't get any guidance on sex or protecting themselves at home or school," Fu said.

According to a Beijing legal center for teenagers, many victims of sexual assaults are left-behind children. The center's statistics show that out of 40 cases of sexual assault on children studied in 2013, 19 concerned the left-behind.

Although classes on prevention of sexual assault have been advocated across the nation, many teachers are too embarrassed to talk about it, according to the GPP. Among 114 primary school teachers from various localities interviewed by the organization, 52 had never offered sex education to students.

As urgency for change mounts, Ye Xingtong strongly supports more sex education.

"I just hope that our society takes sex education more seriously and raises children's awareness of self-protection, so there will be fewer tragedies," Ye said.

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