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Talking sex with your kids

(Chinadaily.com.cn)

10:22, September 19, 2011


Students at a health class in Huanghe Street Primary School in Shenyang, Liaoning province. (China Daily Photo)

BEIJING, Sept. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- A bold initiative to introduce sex education in primary schools is being viewed as a sign of progress by many in a nation where traditionally the subject is taboo. Yu Fei of China Features reports.

When Liu Yajun, a Beijing primary school teacher in her 40s, first tried to talk about reproductive organs with her 11-year-old students, she found she was just too embarrassed to speak. Traditionally, sex has been a taboo subject in China. One is not supposed to talk about it openly, especially with children. In fact, when children ask, "Where did I come from?", many parents will say, "You were picked up from a trash can".

There are no specific sex education courses in Chinese public schools. Although a high school course called "physical hygiene" purports to educate youngsters about their reproductive organs, most students are simply left to read the textbooks on their own.

But a dozen primary schools in Beijing, including the one affiliated to Beijing Medical University where Liu teaches, are trying to make breakthroughs in sex education.

Liu, now armed with training in sex education, says, "We show videos about physiological changes in adolescence to our boys and girls separately. When we show the girls' movie, the boys are curious and watch through a window. Children really want to know about it." In a sex education class in Hepingli No 1 Primary School, a game is on in which boys, playing sperms, vie with each other to overcome obstacles to meet the girls, playing ova. Through the game, they are taught how a sperm meets and fertilizes an ovum.

Sun Yunxiao, deputy director of China Youth Research Center, says, "While promoting sex education in primary schools is an important step forward, China lacks the teachers, textbooks and modern concepts it needs to improve sex education."

With better nutrition, Chinese children are hitting puberty at an earlier age. Researches put the average age of puberty among Chinese girls at 9.2.

"Sex education should start before pubertal development. Children won't know how to protect themselves if they don't understand their bodies and lack knowledge about sexual health," Sun says.

A 2010 survey of 164 million unmarried people aged 15 to 24 in the country, by the Population Research Institute at Peking University, showed that 22.4 percent of respondents had sexual intercourse, but half of them did not use contraception the first time they had sex.

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