Regulations on minors’ protection take effect, call for sexuality education
Published: Aug 31, 2021 08:53 PM
Students run around the Heping Primary School in Yaohai district of Hefei, East China's Anhui Province on Monday, holding new textbooks they have just received. Schools in China will begin the new semester on Wednesday. Photo: IC

Students run around the Heping Primary School in Yaohai district of Hefei, East China's Anhui Province on Monday, holding new textbooks they have just received. Schools in China will begin the new semester on Wednesday. Photo: IC

 Faced with a sad lack of formal sexuality education in China, the country has vowed to offer students a physically and psychologically safe and healthy environment, as the Regulations on School Protection for Minors will take effect on Wednesday - the start of the new school year.

Preventing and controlling campus bullying and sexual assault, and carrying out sexuality education in the classroom, are featured in the new regulations, which sexologists and psychologists said represent a "big leap" in education.

Mainly targeting kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools and special education schools, the regulations ask schools to offer adolescent and sexuality education, to improve students' understanding of physical health, and enhance their awareness and defenses against sexual assault and harassment.

Schools are requested to train teachers and administrative staff on the protection of minors.

Schools are also urged to establish and improve rules of conduct for communication between staff and students, as well as regulations on video surveillance, and to set up a working mechanism for preventing, reporting and dealing with sexual assault and harassment.

School staff and other personnel may not have romantic or sexual relationships with students, nor may they show and disseminate pornographic materials to students, according to the regulations.

School staffers who violate these clauses can be dismissed or banned from working in the education industry, and their teaching qualifications can be revoked. Those who break the law or commit crimes shall be investigated for responsibility according to law.

According to data from the China Foundation of Culture and Art for Children in 2020, China has seen a rise in the number of cases of sexual assault against children aged from 7 to 15, and there were 71 cases of sexual assault by teachers or other staff members.

Wen Xueqi, a Ji'nan-based psychology and sexology teacher, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the need for sexuality education has become more and more urgent. 

Teenagers have reached physical and psychological sexual maturity earlier in recent years, but due to the rapid development of the internet, information in terms of sexual knowledge sometimes misleads them, Wen said, noting a systematic and proper sexuality education is important to guide them.

Good sexuality education should let students know that sex is human nature, which requires them to enjoy nature in a proper and legal way, instead of using it as a weapon to harm themselves and others, Wen said.

Wang Xiaobin, a sexologist, said that she was very excited over the clauses on sexuality education and protection, hailing it as a "big leap." 

In-school sexuality education can drive parents to attach importance to family sexuality education and promote civilian sexuality education and peer sexuality education to be more professional and effective, Wang said.

But Wang expressed concern over the implementation of sexuality education, saying if schools only focus on preventing sexual assault and harassment, it may give children a negative perception of sex, which will not help them establish an intimate relationship in the future. 

Wang highlighted the importance of both physiological and psychological health knowledge in terms of sexuality education. 

"For example, it is not enough to teach children about the biology of menstruation. Teachers should guide them not to feel shame about menstruation and to develop their gender equality values. 

"Also, it is not enough to simply tell children that sperm and eggs combine into a fertilized egg. Teachers should guide them to think about having sex based on what the physical and psychological conditions are, and what should be considered when having sex…" said Wang.

In addition to sexuality education and protection, campus bullying prevention and control is also listed in the regulations. 

The regulations also stressed protecting students' personal information and privacy, such as banning disclosure of their academic grades and rankings.

The new regulations come after a revision of China's Minor Protection Law, which was implemented on June 1.

Following new regulations, the Ministry of Education said it would work with relevant institutions to promote the establishment of pilot schools for the protection of minors and strengthen targeted training.