A sex education text book for second graders has sparked controversy in China over illustrations showing reproductive organs and discussions about sexual abuse, with some parents arguing the content is too graphic for children in elementary school.
The book’s publisher countered the controversy by saying the material was included in the text book following careful scrutiny by experts.
China’s attitude towards sex education is conservative and it’s only recently that the topic’s been introduced in schools.
For one Hangzhou-based parent, the book in the centre of the controversy has taken it too far.
The mother of a child identified by only her Weibo (China’s Twitter) username posted her comments and photos from the text online, sparking the debate. “Textbook featured not only illustrations of the reproductive organs and of two people having sex, but also portrayed discussions about sexual harassment,” she said.
“She posted a picture of a chapter that teaches children how to protect themselves from sexual abuse. The picture shows a woman asking to see a boy's genitals. The woman claimed the picture was too much for her to handle, let alone her child,” the government-run China News Agency said in a report.
“The picture showing the mating process of men and women is absolutely unacceptable!”, another user @MaoerniuFnTamintr was quoted as saying.
The Beijing Normal University Publishing Group told CNS that given the topic, the content was examined carefully.
It said the group issued a series of textbooks named Zhen'ai Shengming, or “Cherish Life”, for students from grades one to five.
“Apart from teaching children how to protect themselves, the series also introduces sexual intercourse, the physical changes of puberty and tells children that homosexuality is normal,” the report said.
Some parents, however, spoke out in support of the book.
One Weibo user, @yuansuiyuewukehuitou, argued in favour of the school and the choice of the book.
“There are so many sexually ignorant people across the country. Instead of avoiding telling children about it, what we should do is to help improve their understanding about sex so that they can better protect themselves.”
Sex education divides opinion among the Chinese, especially between older and younger generations.
But many cases of sexual assault on minors have increased the demand among parents for sex education for their school-going children.
“According to the China Social Assistance Foundation, over 500 child sex abuse cases were reported by the media in 2014,” the CNS report said.
A textbook on sex education, the first of its kind in Shenzhen in south China's Guangzhou Province, was pulled after being tried out for months in 2003, after many schools rejected it.