Teenage pregnancies are on the rise in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality as medical experts and sociologists blame overlooking sex education and unsafe sexual behavior for the problem.
Chinese parents are struggling to persuade their children not to have sex too early but statistics show unwanted pregnancies among teenagers increase by about 6.8 percent every year.
Unmarried girls in Chongqing account for more than one third oftotal abortions, up from 13 percent in 1998, according to statistics from the municipal health bureau.
Zeng Qingliang, vice-president of the Chongqing Municipal Association of Sexuality, said the sharp increase in teenage pregnancies was largely attributable to the lack of sex education.
"Those young children have no idea about how to protect themselves from such problems," Zeng said.
While the proportion of teenage pregnancies increased, the average age of adolescents having sex has dropped.
Most of the teenagers who sought help from the Chongqing Assistance Center for Adolescent Unexpected Pregnancies, an agency established in February 2003, are children aged 16 or 17, doctors at the center said.
The center said the number of girls who sought help usually increased markedly two months before the new school semesters began, with the youngest a 12-year-old girl.
Similar assistance centers have also been opened in Jinan, Hangzhou, Xi'an and Shenyang and unmarried girls can receive emergency contraception within one week after unprotected intercourse.
"Sex education among Chinese middle school students is urgently needed," said Sun Yunxiao, research fellow with the China Adolescent Development Research Center.
A survey shows that about one-third of middle school students have never received any sex education.
Meanwhile, most surveyed students who had engaged in sexual behavior confessed they were not familiar with contraception. A sampling survey in Jiangsu Province, and Shanghai Municipality, one of China's most economically-developed regions, shows that only 15 percent of surveyed high school students had received sex education from their teachers or parents.