by Shan Juan
Sex education and related services need to be available to all Chinese youths, even those who are not married, say experts in the field of reproductive health.
Though they may be sexually active, single Chinese youths can find themselves cut off from the free consultations and assistance offered to their young but married counterparts.
"There is definitely a great need for that among China's more than 200 million young people aged 10 to 24, married and single alike," said Tang Kun, chairman of the China Youth Committee of the 5th Asian and Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights.
In China, single youths who are also sexually active are not well covered by government-sponsored sexual and reproductive health services like consultations, health checks and free contraceptives like condoms.
Meanwhile, young married couples can get free condoms from family planning clinics and at work places.
"The youth might also be having sex, so why not give them the same benefits as the married?" Tang said, urging that a focus on youth regardless of marital status be integrated into the national policy and service delivery.
Young students in China are dismissive about sex education at schools, complaining it focuses too much on the physical side of sex, including sexual identity and naming parts, but with scarce information on the emotions.
Since 1988, schools across the country have introduced curricula on reproductive and adolescent health.
"It's required by law, which aims to secure youths' rights to and access to sex education," said Pan Guiyu, deputy director of the nongovernmental China Family Planning Association.
However, the policy has reportedly not been well implemented, mainly because sex remains a "no-go area" which cannot be openly discussed, particularly at schools and within families - two major fronts for child education, experts said.
"My middle school teacher just left us a textbook on reproductive health to read on our own," recalled Tang, who's now in his late 20s.
As a result, unwanted and teenage pregnancies are on the rise, most of which end in abortion, previous reports say.
A 2008 survey found that nearly 60 per cent of the Chinese youths aged 15 to 24 had no idea how to use a condom correctly.
However, open-mindedness toward sexuality and sexual rights is continuing to rise, particularly among youths, said Pan Suiming, who heads the Institute of Sexuality and Gender Research at Renmin University.
The latest survey by Pan's institute showed nearly 70 per cent of urban unmarried youths younger than 30 had sex and 25 per cent of them had more than one partner.
"This puts young people at risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS," said Pan.
He urged authorities to change the current family planning model into one that is more flexible.