- Guizhou to relocate 1.5 million poor
- Aircraft carrier to begin service this year
- Pollution levels to classify farmland for production
- Path to stardom starts with an exam
- Love is in the air, so is marriage
- Back to the green grass of home
- Cyclist back in saddle for world tour
- Central bank on path of prudence
- Taboo subject takes its toll on women
- At panel talks, Hu stresses Tibet stability
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As the world marks International Women's Day on Thursday, China can reflect on many achievements in women's rights.
Yet, the issue of virginity appears to be just as divisive as ever.
Although attitudes toward sex have steadily become more relaxed over the last few decades, sociologists say little has changed when it comes to the desire among men for "pure" brides.
Guo Jianmei, director of the Beijing Zhongze Women's Legal Counseling and Service Center, said it is still common for men - especially in the countryside - to beat their wife if they discover she is not a virgin on their wedding day.
The center has recorded roughly 1,000 domestic violence cases since it was founded (originally as the Center for Women's Law and Legal Services at Peking University) in December 1995. Almost 30 percent were the result of a man becoming upset over the question of virginity, Guo said.
The situation is not much better in the cities.
Relatives of the Beijing bachelor Ma Fei, 39, have been trying to introduce him to potential girlfriends for some time. "A friend of my father said he knows a pretty girl studying at the Central Academy of Drama, but she is probably no longer a virgin, and so probably not good enough for me," Ma said.
"I have to admit, I still care about the virginity of a woman who might be my wife," he said. "If she has lost it, I need to know why."
"Non-virgins how can you have the nerve to get married?" read the headline of a recent post on Tianya, an Internet forum.
In the piece, the male author criticizes women who have had sex before marriage, denouncing them as cheap and having low moral fiber. They are unsuitable as wives, he says, because they will be easily seduced by other men.