Women who traditionally kept their personal lives a secret are now much braver in speaking up as their knowledge of reproductive health keeps growing.
Liu xiaohong, a 34-year-old woman farmer in Lujiang County, Anhui Province, feels at ease about confiding to a gynecologist and soliciting advice on women's diseases.
In the past, she regarded such discussions as taboo and would hesitate to do so.
"Would it be appropriate to go to gynecologists, and what if they make it gossip? If so, then I will be made a laughing stock," she explained her former worry.
Liu now believes pillow talk between husbands and wives can be discussed with others when necessary.
What changed her mind was unpleasant sexual intercourse with her husband, Cheng Xiaodong, earlier this year.
"My gut feeling told me I was sick but I hesitated to see a doctor, so I picked up a telephone and called the local family planning center for help," she said.
A doctor called on her and found she had come down with an inflammation known as vaginitis. Thanks to timely treatment, she recovered quickly.
The telephone number she dialed was a hot line set up by local family planning units. In some such centers, special rooms are even reserved for those who wish to have a private conversation with doctors.
As most rural women are simply educated and lack adequate knowledge about personal hygiene, they are very vulnerable to reproductive diseases. In some outlying mountainous and poor regions, the incidence can be as high as 45 percent.
Chen zhaojun, a director of the Family Planning Association of China, said, "It was a common practice for most women to conceal diseases for fear of mocks or sneering."
In the vast rural areas, he said, people tended to regard reproductive health care as something filthy and shunned the topic.
In 1994, an action program was approved by the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.
The program elaborated the vital importance of health services for women in view of the fact that an educated working woman contributes to the sustained development of all societies.
Since then, China has redoubled its efforts and launched pilot service centers in more than 800 counties, approximately 33 percent of the country's total.
At these centers, a range of technical services are provided to help women choose contraceptive methods, take prompt measures to guard against disease and provide still better care to nursing babies.
(eastday.com December 19, 2002)