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Overcoming stigma of girls' sex education

By HU DONGMEI in Yinchuan and LI HONGYANG in Beijing | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-04-15 07:38

Nan Yuehong teaches a course in sex education to an all-girl class at the Zhangyi Middle School in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region. ZHAI ANRU/FOR CHINA DAILY

At closed classes in Ningxia school, teens are gaining confidence to discuss reproduction and hygiene issues

During a recent class in Zhangyi, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, teenage girls were having a lively discussion about menstruation, although some hid their faces in their hands or smiled sheepishly.

On the blackboard at the Zhangyi Middle School was an image of the female reproductive organs with information explaining their functions. Shan Rong, 14, said she was still too shy to look directly at the image and even felt embarrassed when hearing the organs' name spoken. "I knew nearly nothing about menstruation or sex before the age of 13 and my grandmother was the only one in my family who had told me about periods and sanitary napkins," she said.

In 2008, the Ministry of Education released a guideline on health education for primary and middle school students that included sex education. However, biology teachers tended to skip the sex-related part to avoid embarrassment.

Many Chinese parents prevaricated when it came to answering questions on sex education and reproduction, telling their inquisitive children "We picked you up from a trash can" and "You jumped out of a stone crack" when the youngsters asked where they came from.

In 2010, Yang Xiuhua, the principal of the school, launched an all-girls class to try and address the stigma of talking about physical development, reproduction and health issues. It was designed as a compulsory course for all girls age 14 and older. Each class lasts 40 minutes and has about 60 girls.

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