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China steps up efforts to counter child abuse

(Xinhua)    09:03, November 21, 2019

BEIJING, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- "Don't touch me, do you want to go to jail?" said a second-grade girl at the primary school affiliated to Chen Jinglun High School in Beijing.

While sounding at first like a harrowing encounter, it was actually a simulation class of a philanthropic project named "Girls' Protection," in which students learn skills like how to say "no" to unwanted sexual advances.

As World Children's Day falls on Wednesday, such classes on self-protection and sex education for children, as part of the efforts to counter child abuse, are becoming a more common scene across China.

Launched by 100 Chinese female journalists and a couple of media outlets on June 1, 2013, with the help of the China Children and Teenagers' Fund, the project has managed to give classes in 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, covering over 550,000 parents and 3.26 million kids as of September this year.

Zhao Lijie, a senior teacher with the project who joined in 2015, said she has given "countless" classes in places such as Tibet Autonomous Region and the provinces of Gansu and Henan.

"It's not an easy task for me," said Zhao, who noted that would-be teachers must score at least 55 out of 61 on the qualification exam.

With the project, teachers, parents, children and pubescent students take different classes with different textbooks, among which the version for children has been modified 55 times based on the reactions of the children, said Sun Xuemei, an initiator of the project.

Its down-to-earth fashion and ability to resonate with people proved to be significant in generating the strong momentum the project has enjoyed over the years.

Xing Yanfei, mother of a six-year-old girl and the teacher playing the role of the "molester" in the Beijing class, applied for a spot in the project after attending a class for parents in the capital earlier this year.

"Kids are like angels, and I couldn't imagine sexual abuse happening to my daughter, whose knowledge about protecting herself against such abuse might not be sufficient," she said, adding that she would try to give classes to more schools despite her early difficulties in teaching.

With strong social support, projects like "Girls' Protection" are slowly honing the legal environment for the protection of children against abuse.

Starting in 2014, the project has held a symposium every March 2, inviting deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) and members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and scholars to discuss the latest issues in the field of child sexual abuse in an effort to promote the improvement of laws and regulations concerning the protection of children.

Procuratorates have also been open to suggestions in the field. For instance, on May 30, over 120 middle and primary school teachers and students discussed with legislators and political advisors at the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) on how to educate minors on protecting themselves from abuse and how society can help protect them.

Their voices did not go unheard. On Nov. 1, 2015, the "Crime of Prostituting Girls under the Age of 14" was abolished thanks to the efforts of the All-China Women's Federation and the China Foundation of Culture and Arts for Children, after questions about possible gender discrimination.

Moreover, in February, Liu Li, a deputy to the NPC and founder of the Lixing Charity Foundation, found that her suggestion at the first session of the 13th NPC last March on building a "one-stop" inquiry and aid mechanism for dealing with child sexual abuse cases was accepted and included in a working plan of the SPP that spans from 2018 to 2022.

More recently, in late October, the draft revisions to the Law on the Protection of Minors and the Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency were reviewed by lawmakers to put in place measures to strengthen the legal protection of minors against abuse.

"We saw great changes in attitudes toward sex education in the six years, which may benefit more children especially girls, allowing them to grow up without worries," said Sun Xuemei.

"China still needs to do more, and I hope self-protection courses can be normalized in primary and middle schools across China," she said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Shi Xi, Bianji)

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