An Inter Press Service Feature
By Cherif Cordahi
CAIRO, Sep 9 (IPS) - Rapid economic changes in China are adversley affecting women by threatening their marriages and mental health through intense competition for jobs, say Chinese groups at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).
While talented women are finding the economic competition beneficial, many are suffering psychological crises, according to China's Women's Research Institute (WRI), a non-government agency.
''The traditional marriage concept is being destabilised by the social reconstruction,'' reads its 1994 report. ''Some artificially stable marriages are being threatened. Other than job competition, marital problems are undoubtedly another challenge for women.''
The crisis has reached such proportions that the WRI, which is linked to the Beijing-based China Academy of Management Science, has set up the country's first telephone hot line for counselling.
Set up in 1992, the holtline has so far answered over 10,000 calls dealing with maternal and child care, marriage and family, and sex.
When the line was first opened more than 60 percent of the calls were from Beijing. But as its popularity has grown across the country, now 50 percent of the calls are from outside Beijing.
''It indicates that the hot line service has become a close friend of women at the national level,'' the report claims. The WRI says the hot line is a barometer for women's concerns across the 'Middle Kingdom'.
Top of women's worries relate to their romantic or married lives. About 20 percent of calls are to do with maternal and child care, while sex comes near the bottom with around 10 percent.
However, most of the calls regarding sex come from men, the report claims, but adds that the proportion of women calling for advice on sex has been growing.
''It suggests that women have been emancipated from the taboo of sex. They hope to learn more scientific knowledge on sex through the hot line services and seek to improve the qualities of their sexual interactions. This shows a great improvement in women's sexual awareness,'' said the report.
Altogether, China's economic boom, the WRI claim, has expanded horizons for personal relationships. ''This poses a new problem for many people.'