Group raises awareness of sexual abuse

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, March 10, 2016
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Sun Xuemei, a 32-year-old journalist, is one of the volunteers behind Protecting Young Girls, which aims to get schools to teach children about sexual abuse.

While recent years have seen numerous cases of sexual abuse against children, lessons on how to avoid it are absent from the national curriculum. Sun wants to change this.

She knows what it’s like to be ignorant about sex. When Sun was 9 years old, she witnessed one of her neighbors being sexually harassed.

“I did not realize the bizarre act was an attempted rape until years later,” she recalled.

Sun helped launch Protecting Young Girls in 2013. She and around 100 other female journalists began training teachers, giving free lessons to children and distributing brochures on sexual harassment. By the end of 2015, the volunteers’ ranks had swelled to 5,000 and they had taught 650,000 school kids across China.

Sun, mother to a 2-year-old girl, is expecting a second baby. But she has no plans to quit the campaign.

“With our efforts, I hope my kids will live in a better world than I do now,” she said.

According to the Foundation of China Culture and Arts for Children, 300 cases of sexual abuse against children were reported in 2015. Seventy percent of the victims were attacked by acquaintances, suggesting they were not very aware of the dangers and did not know how to protect themselves.

Sun’s ideas about the importance of sex education are also being echoed in the ongoing “two sessions,” China’s prominent annual political meetings.

Li Xinrong, a deputy with the National People’s Congress (NPC), believes school textbooks containing information on how to protect oneself against sexual abuse are especially important in rural areas, where many “left-behind” children live with relatives as their migrant worker parents are away in distant cities.

“School education is badly needed for rural children, considering what little education and protection they are likely to be receiving at home,” Li said.

NPC deputy Li Yifei, a high school headmaster in north China’s Inner Mongolia region, has submitted proposals on protection for minors at three consecutive congresses and has seen some progress.

After his suggestions, the NPC Standing Committee is considering repealing the crime of sex with underage prostitutes and reclassifying it as rape, which would mean harsher penalties.

The Domestic Violence Law, which took effect on March 1, also offers legal protection for children if they suffer sexual abuse at the hands of a step-parent.

Ni Chunxia, an official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said the abuse cases that have been exposed are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg, as many victims, especially those living in conservative rural areas, are too afraid to talk about what they have been through.

“Without protection and care from their parents, left-behind children tend to suffer both mentally and physically,” she said.

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