NANCHANG, Jan. 24 -- The plight of China's "left-behind" rural women, who have long repressed their sexual needs with their husbands away working urban jobs, has grabbed the attention of local political advisors.
The longstanding absence of sex and affection from their spouses has seriously jeopardized the women's physical and mental health, political advisor Xiong Tong said at the annual session of the Jiangxi Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which ended on Thursday.
The distance between either side of the couples also commonly threatens their marriages, as the men who have "broadened their horizons in cities" are prone to extramarital affairs, according to Xiong, who serves as vice mayor of Jiangxi's Jinggangshan City.
Sex generally remains a taboo topic in China, particularly in the conservative rural community, prompting lonely wives to keep their pain to themselves.
Government data shows China has more than 47 million left-behind rural women, most aged between 30 and 50. Some of them meet their husbands only once a year, usually in the traditional Lunar New Year.
Besides the sexual problem, Xiong said, the women are also struggling to manage multiple tiring tasks, including looking after children and the elderly, household chores and farm work, all alone.
In addition, without their husbands' protection, such women often fall prey to violence and sexual assaults. But most victims choose to be silent about their suffering for fear of revenge or gossip, the vice mayor noted.
Xiong suggested the government should step up efforts to narrow the yawning rural-urban divide and create more jobs in the countryside so as to encourage rural men to stay in their hometown.
Luo Yanping, another local political advisor who is deputy director of the health bureau in Jiangxi's Ji'an City, voiced similar concerns over the vulnerable group at the meeting.
Luo called for living allowances and insurance to be provided for the left-behind women to help them migrate to urban areas and reunite with their husbands. She also urged more action to engage the lonely village women in cultural activities to enrich their daily life.
In 2011, the All-China Women's Federation launched a national campaign that required its local branches to build "mutual support groups" among village women. These have proved effective in helping left-behind wives cope.