NANJING, CHINA -- More than a third of Nanjing's young people have said they see premarital sex as acceptable.
In a survey of 391 16-to-25-year- olds, 36 per cent said they accepted sex before marriage. However, the survey also found that 46 per cent of the Jiangsu provincial capital's young people considered sex before marriage intolerable, while 18 per cent were unsure, saying it depended on the state of the relationship.
The survey, completed last week, was jointly conducted by the Jiangsu branch of Marie Stopes International (MSI), a London-based international non-governmental organization providing sexual and reproductive health information, and the provincial population and family planning commission.
Among the main reasons given by those who said "yes" to premarital sex, was the idea that "two people truly in love would naturally have sex."
This was followed by the theory that "premarital sex would help lovers find out whether they were truly suited to each other and can be happily married in the future."
Cherishing virginity and health concerns were the top two reasons given by those who rejected sex before marriage.
The results echoed those of a National Population and Family Planning Commission survey in October which found that more than one third of young people in China see premarital sex as good preparation for married life.
According to a report released by the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission in 2004, premarital health checkups by the city in 2003 found that 69 per cent of fiances in Shanghai had premarital sex.
According to Li Yinhe, an expert in gender studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, soaring premarital sex symbolizes the sexual liberation of China, especially among young people.
"Instead of considering premarital sex immoral, as society has considered conventionally, youngsters are now pursuing personal enjoyment," said Li during a recent lecture in Guangzhou.
However, if youngsters lack vital sex education, this sexual liberation could lead to a growth in various social problems, including a rise in abortions, experts warned.
"Compared with the rising interest in premarital sex among the young, their knowledge of healthy sex sees no evident improvement. Some of them don't know the basics of contraception, " said Xu Pei, an expert from Nanjing Maternity and Child Health Hospital.
"Proper sex education should be strengthened in schools and universities."
Statistics from Xu's hospital show that for the past three years, 40 per cent of women undergoing abortions have been unmarried youngsters.
MSI's survey also found that most of those surveyed received no proper sex education before having sex, with more than half admitting that they had tried to glean information from pornography.