The Blank Slate of Sexual Education in the Chinese Countryside

| November 19th, 2009

20091119-condom-01

As Chinese youth are exposed to more and more sex via the Internet in China’s rapidly expanding economy, the education system still has to catch up to their newfound curiosity. Even many schools in Beijing have only recently started true sex education classes, and these only usually begin in high school. There is an inconsistency in the way that China is becoming increasingly liberalized in some ways, but not quickly enough in some important ways and the problem of sexual education illuminates this (you can see the progression of abortion rates here). A number of horrific incidents have occurred recently, including a young woman giving birth in a toilet. Here is a recent article in the Slate concerning the lack of sex education in China. The following story provides a detailed description of the reaction of a small town to the incident of a 14-year old girl giving birth with no one ever noticing she was pregnant.

[From ChinaNews]

While the other farmers of northern Guangdong are celebrating the much-needed rainfalls, 42-year old Deng Decai has locked herself at home, unremittingly smoking and sighing. Even in his dreams he never would have thought that only a week earlier, his 14-year old daughter Deng Chunhua would secretly give birth to a baby boy in her dorm room and proceed to throw the baby boy out the 5th floor window.

The tragedy happened on November 4th at a junior high in Aobei. According to local sources, one morning Deng Chunhua felt stomach pains and decided to not go to class and gave birth to a baby boy in her dormitory. The birth petrified Deng Chunhua, she was terrified of being reprimanded by her parents and despised by her classmates, so she put the baby in a black plastic bag and threw it out her window. However, the bag landed near the school walls and was discovered by a teacher later that day.

The above story was confirmed by the school principal. After the baby was discovered, the school immediately sent the physically weak Deng Chunhua to the hospital.

On November 6th, Deng Chunhua was taken away by the police. Yu Fu, the school principal says that the question of whether or not the baby was thrown out of the window by her and how she got pregnant will have to be officially confirmed by police investigations.

The news soon led to heated discussion on other issues in the quiet town, the local residents are extremely dissatisfied with the local education system and forms of supervision. When a new student registers at a school, there should be a physical examination, how can no one notice that a young girl is pregnant while attending a school? However, during interviews, her classmates and parents all thought that she had merely gained weight.

“She had only been in school for two months and teachers and students all thought that it was just body fat,” Xu, the vice-president of the school told reporters. The school does have a physical exam when students enter the school, but it is scheduled in December.” Xu does admit that the school cannot avoid supervision duties and responsibility, and after the incident the school had an emergency meeting to discuss and summarize the incident.

Seven kilometers away from the school outside the small village, the reporter found the girl’s father Deng Decai. Upon seeing the reporters, Deng Decai unceasingly blamed himself, “I am to blame! A few months ago, Chunhua’s mother was washing clothes by the river and neighbors mentioned that Chunhua looked pregnant, but I said, she’s so young, it’s impossible, she’s just gained weight.”

Even now, Deng Decai has no idea when her daughter was impregnated. Deng Decai has three children, two boys and one girl, Deng Chunhua is his second child, and Deng Decai has always felt that Chunhua a sensible and obedient daughter, she never went online, and never got involved with riff-raff. Everyday when she got home from school she would help her mother with household chores.

This is a tragedy that should not have happened, besides the future of these junior high girls, what worries one even more is that when tragic incidents are increasingly more frequent, there is not attempt to change the fact that there is a lack of sex education at home and at school.

This case in northern Guangdong is not an isolated incident, on December 18th, 2008, Cong Hua, who should have been entering into the second year of junior high, gave birth to a baby boy; on October 15th, 2009, a 17-year old at a school in Southern China gave birth to a baby boy in her school dorm. Similar to the case of Chunhua, the parents, teachers, and classmates of these two girls had no idea that the girls were pregnant, the two girls also chose to be silent and secretly dispose of the babies.

“If I had known about the effects of teenage pregnancy, much of this sorrow could have completely been avoided,” Chunhua’s school director told reporters. There is basically no sexual education at schools in the countryside in China, these schools often have health classes, but once they reach the topic of sex and sexual organs, many teachers will allow students to self-learn, this type of avoidance is very dangerous in a generation of curious youth who are exposed to sex very early via the Internet, these adolescents have no sense of methods of birth control, and many times when they become pregnant, it is only understood to be weight gain.

“In our small town, no one has the nerve to talk to small girls about sex, if the girl is 17 or 18, the mother may remind her.” Deng Decai and the other farmers in his small town are not prepared to handle pregnancies of teenagers born in the 90’s.

During the interviews, the reporter found that many students did not know who to turn to to talk about their problems. They feared criticism from their teachers, contempt from classmates, and were not willing to communicate personal issues to adults at their school, and their parents were often busy in the fields all day.

The director of the school, Zhang, told reporters that the school plans to open psychological counseling rooms to help students in the uncertainty of their teenage years. Still, the school is unsure how useful these counseling rooms will actually be.

32 Comments | Leave a comment | Comment feed

  1. bert says:

    This stuff happens with or without sex education. Throwing a baby out a window is past sex ed but falls under, “lack of moral foundation.”

    We need love education not sex education.

  2. john says:

    don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater…

  3. Wo Man says:

    This is so sad, why are adults or the system in China so uncaring towards the next generation. How can their society grow and be respected by other countries if they cannot supply the most basic needs? I feel so sorry for these teenage girls. Until they get proper emotional support by their parents, friends and peers I am sure that soon they will suffer terrible depression.
    This is the fault of China’s government for repressing and segregating the population from other countries.
    Not only have they got teenager who have no idea about how babies are formed, but STDs and HIV and rampant.
    SHAME on the government and parents of China. Stop this “saving face” and really honestly care about your children.

    • Krist says:

      Just got all the answers and love to point that finger eh wo man? Things like this are sad and pointing the finger at authorities is so easy to do; especially on your pedestal tsk tsk’ing. This is not the fault of a politician or any group of men in beijing or any other county- some things are just sad. That the young didnt have a support network she could turn to? That any society has people like this isnt good- not just china.

  4. danni says:

    Have sympathy for these poor girls. Try to imagine how scared all of those poor teenagers must havefelt. How awful it must be to go through a pregnancy and give birth all alone with noone to support and advise you and medical assistance and then be so scared of shaming your family to do something so terrible as to throw the baby away. If these girls had been able to talk to someone maybe an abortion or adoption could have been set up which would have prevented so much trauma. Such a terrible position to be in.

  5. pug_ster says:

    Occasionally I hear news of how some teenage girl here in the US gave birth to a baby, and throw the baby out in the garbage. The lack of Sex Ed is not because China doesn’t care about its next generation, but China advocates abstinence over Sex education. Yes that needs to change but the people in the rural areas will be weary because they tend to be more conservative than the people in the urban areas.

  6. Ricardo says:

    very sad for these girls.
    very sad for the new borns, who will never have a chance to live.
    very sad to find excuses like the following: “…curious youth who are exposed to sex very early via the Internet”
    It’s so easy to blame it on the internet.
    Like Bert said, this country needs education in another field.
    Do they realy think the teenagers are going to listen to teachers? It’s going to happen anyway, with or without internet, with or without sex ed in schools.
    This “I don’t wana lose my face” and “I will only do it if you bribe me” needs to stop, so that the new generation learns about new values in life and knows that throwing a new born out of the window isn’t going to saulve the problem.

    • Ji Meimei says:

      Or they could just continue to be like us here in the Bible Belt. This happens so often, schools have started installing toilets with a special flush function. Of course, we also help to alleviate the problem by getting our girls married off by the time of their first menses–China used to do that too, but now they’re too liberal and send their girls to school when they should be in the kitchen. A girl that never goes outside can’t fool around, right? And Heaven forbid that they even look at a computer–there are sites on the internet that actually inform you how to have sex with a very low risk of pregnancy or STD!

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