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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 10:37 GMT
Dangers behind China's sexual revolution
Chinese women walk next to a poster promoting condom use at a sex education exhibit in Beijing
Sexual awareness campaigns remain controversial
As China faces what researchers describe as a "hidden epidemic" of sexually-transmitted diseases, the BBC's Holly Williams assesses public opinion on the streets of Beijing.

In Beijing's university district, a sexual revolution is happening.

Young people are more promiscuous and sexually active than ever before.

They go to nightclubs, they live together and they have sex before marriage.

But there is also a huge generation gap. Their parents and especially their grandparents are far more conservative.

While there is a great deal of sexual freedom for young people, sexual matters are still considered taboo - and the situation is proving something of a contradiction.

Yes, we are more liberated, but sex is still a sensitive subject. We're not as free as you Westerners.
23-year-old female student

For example, condoms are on sale in convenience stores all over the city, but a recent advertisement that actually featured a picture of a condom was banned as it was considered too risqué.

One 23-year-old female student at Beijing University said sex was still a sensitive subject.

"We're not as free as you Westerners," she said.

Although she had heard of HIV and Aids, she said she was unsure of how she could protect herself.

"I don't think there's any way of protecting yourself if you're a woman," she said.

She had also never heard of chlamydia - an often symptom-less disease which can lead to female infertility and put sufferers at a greater risk of HIV and Aids infection.

A 21-year-old male student said that although he knew what chlamydia was, he was unsure how sufferers became infected.

"I don't think many people have it here," he said.

But researchers say a significant number of Chinese adults are infected with chlamydia - with infection rates similar to developed Western countries.

More information

While there may be a certain degree of ignorance about sexual matters in China, many people are eager to find out more.

Last week, a new sexual education textbook was published and put on sale in the university district.

It sold out overnight, and had to go into a second and third print run.

People want to know more, and they want to protect themselves against sexually-transmitted diseases.

The question is whether the government will overcome old taboos, and help them do that.

Report co-author Edward Laumann
"Chlamydia is treatable, but you have to know it's there"

China faces sex disease crisis
12 Mar 03 |  Asia-Pacific
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14 Oct 02 |  Asia-Pacific
China admits Aids crisis
09 Aug 01 |  Asia-Pacific

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