Abstinence Program Partners Chinese Officials with U.S. Evangelicals
In Yunnan schools this year, teachers are being trained with a sex education curriculum created by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family. The agreement with the Yunnan ministry of education is a milestone for Focus on the Family, which has struggled for four years to make inroads on abstinence in China.
It is also the result of a narrow confluence of interests: Evangelical Christian groups want an entree into China. And Chinese authorities, despite the country’s official atheism, want help with controlling population growth and managing the society’s rapidly shifting values.
Chinese society has undergone major changes in recent decades, with divorce rates climbing steadily and migration and modernization putting increasing pressure on families, sociologists say. Wading into those waters, Focus on the Family has tried to market its marriage- and family-oriented programs as solutions. But Communist Party officials have been suspicious, at times, of the group’s motivations.
At an early demonstration of the abstinence curriculum two years ago – given to the Communist Youth League of China in Hangzhou – teens were supposed to end the seminar by making a virginity pledge, the hallmark of the Christian group’s abstinence program. But government officials quickly stepped in, insisting that the kids pledge to no one but the Communist Party.