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Underage pregnancies to be reported

By CANG WEI in Nanjing | China Daily | Updated: 2023-03-30 09:21


Some hospitals take action on opinion paper's call for compulsory alarm system

Hospitals in some Chinese cities are being required to report pregnancies involving girls under the age of 14 to law enforcement.

The People's Procuratorate of Huai'an, East China's Jiangsu province, launched the reporting system recently together with the local health commission.

When a girl under the age of 14 is found to be pregnant, a red alert will automatically remind the attending doctor to report it to local police or prosecutors in the city.

The compulsory reporting system can help avoid problems such as doctors not knowing how to report, or feeling afraid to report, according to the procuratorate in Huai'an.

Han Xuejiao, deputy director of the seventh procuratorial department of Huai'an People's Procuratorate, said that the reporting system contains two separate subsystems, with one urging doctors to report and the other allowing every resident to report such cases.

The first subsystem has a three-color alarm system. When teenagers from 16 to 18 years old are found to be pregnant when receiving treatment, the system will give an alarm in yellow on the attending doctors' screens.

An orange alarm will be given when the girls are between 14 to 16 and a red alarm will be given when girls under 14 are diagnosed to be pregnant.

"It is against the law to have sex with a girl under the age of 14 and those violating the law will be convicted of rape," said Han.

"For girls from 14 to 16 years old who are pregnant, we must make sure that the sex happened after they reached 14 years old. And for girls aged 16 to 18, we must confirm that they were not forced when they had sex."

Some people, especially legal professionals, expressed concerns that the reporting system might violate the privacy protection of children. Some also argue that some parents, though not many, might be unwilling to report the abuse to avoid possible discrimination against their children who may have already suffered.

"We have considered the privacy protection of children and their parents' concerns," Han said.

"The reporting system is operated by the hospitals, the police and the procuratorate, which all have obligations to protect the privacy of the victims. Hospital workers who have access to the reporting system will sign a confidentiality agreement to make sure that they will not violate the victims' privacy."

The other reporting subsystem, installed on the city's frequently used government mobile app, allows anyone who registers to report information about abuse against teenagers. Those who often have close contact with children during work are especially encouraged to report any abuse they have noticed.

In May 2020, the Supreme People's Procuratorate and nine other departments jointly issued an opinion in favor of establishing mandatory reporting of such abuse.

"The reporting system echoes with the opinion and enables the doctors to have proper channels to fulfill their reporting obligations," said Han.

The cities of Yixing and Lianyungang in Jiangsu have also installed the reporting system in their hospital medical records systems.

Guo Jun in Nanjing contributed to this story.

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