China: Backlash over college chastity pledge

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

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image captionOnly female students were asked to sign the pledge

A college in north-west China has come under fire for asking female students to sign a chastity pledge as part of a course.

The college, in the city of Xian in Shaanxi province, uses the "commitment card" during a course called No Regrets Youth class, according to the China Economic Daily website. A photo of the card has been widely shared on Chinese social media. "I promise to myself, my family, my friends and my future spouse and children that I will refuse all kinds of premarital intercourse before I step into a lifelong monogamous marriage," it reads, with space underneath for students to sign their names. It also includes a pledge to avoid infidelity once married. While abstinence pledges have existed in US colleges since the mid-1990s, they're very rare in China.

While there have been complaints from students at the college itself - which isn't named in the report - there has been a huge online response, with many social media users criticising the college for using an "outdated" approach. "It's hard to imagine that this would brazenly appear at a college in the 21st Century," writes one person on the Sina Weibo microblog site.

"Whether or not to have premarital sex is for adults to choose as they please," says another user. "Why should anybody promise? For a university to do this is really unsettling."

Others seem to have no problem with the pledge itself, but object to the fact that male students aren't required to sign it. "This is a simply wonderful provision, but why does it not include boys?" asks one person. Another says: "Men should sign - isn't this sexist?"

A teacher at the college tells the paper that he didn't expect such strong online backlash, and says that the card was introduced with students' best interests in mind.

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