China

Sex-ed debate in China over 'underage' pregnancy videos

A still from a video purporting to show a pregnant teenage girl Image copyright Kuaishou
Image caption The legal age of consensual sex in China is 14

An apparent trend of Chinese teenagers vlogging about being pregnant has sparked online concern in the country.

Chinese newspapers say Kuaishou, a live streaming app, has seen a spate of videos appearing featuring underage pregnant girls discussing their lives.

The BBC has not independently verified the girls' ages.

One has posted in a school uniform, and another is reported to be 14 years old, leading commenters to say the videos promote sex outside marriage.

'Unhappy with this'

Image copyright Peter Dazeley
Image caption Chinese media say rural areas are especially affected by underage pregnancies

Many Chinese live streaming applications have a strict and extensive list of guidelines so that mainland-based users do not post content that is deemed subversive towards the state.

Consequently, such apps mainly contain videos of young men and women talking about their hobbies and singing karaoke songs.

However, Kuaishou said that its users had drawn attention to some 40 videos on the site purporting to show pregnant underage girls, and said that it had removed a number of them.

"The legal marriage age in our country is 20 years old," it said in a statement.

"The law does not encourage this; it does not advocate pregnancies under the age of 18, and we are unhappy with this 14-year-old girl's behaviour."

It said that it wanted to "protect young peoples' legitimate interests and rights".

Chinese law defines statutory rape as sex with a person under the age of 14. It does not distinguish by gender.

Kuaishou has encouraged users of the platform to report any other videos they see of girls claiming to be underage. However, one newspaper said on Friday that there were many such videos still available to view on the site.

'A disgrace'

Image copyright Sina Weibo
Image caption Thousands of social media users are using the #UnderagePregnancyImagesAndVideos hashtag

The apparent trend has sparked much concern among China's online community.

Thousands of users of the popular Weibo microblogging site have posted using the hashtag #UnderagePregnancyImagesAndVideos, with many voicing their anger.

"It is rubbish that there is this spread of underage pregnancy," says one user.

"You have no self-respect," another directs at the girls. "You should not give birth to innocent children. They have no obligation to bear the consequences of your ignorant behaviour."

Some say that the partners of the pregnant girls "should be arrested". There are also some who criticise Kuaishou for allowing such videos to be broadcast, and some say society is to blame for "not teaching the girls self-respect".

"These girls are a disgrace to us millennials," one adds. "Modern society has clearly taken a beating as there are now vulgar videos to be found everywhere."

But some were slightly more sympathetic, saying for instance: "These are children, how can they do this?

Another wrote: "This a tragedy in society."

'Education is necessary'

Image copyright People's Daily
Image caption "Tell more families" People's Daily told parents, promoting a number of sexual education books

The incident comes amid months of online debate over whether China is doing enough to ensure that young people receive sufficient sexual education.

The country has long been considered sex-shy, meaning that discussion about sex among minors is still largely regarded as taboo.

Many children are not taught about sex by either their parents or teachers, and there have also been reports of sexual education videos being blocked by online censors, as they are deemed "vulgar" by the Chinese authorities.

Government mouthpiece People's Daily began encouraging parents to have conversations with their children in August, and shared pictures online of a number of sexual education books.

While many said teenagers were "too young" to learn about sex, others lauded the paper's move.

"We should not be afraid to speak about sex," one user said.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.