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March 4, 2011

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Anger at 'virginity dowry'

A POPULAR Shanghai TV show mediator nicknamed "Auntie Bai" has created an online controversy after claiming the finest gift a bride can bring to her husband's family is her virginity.

In her television show on Oriental Television early this week, Bai Wanqing, who has found fame intervening in family disputes, advised local unmarried young women not to have premarital sex.

"Virginity is a bride's best dowry to her husband's family," said Bai.

Her comments were picked up online and widely distributed. On Sina's microblog, they have been forwarded more than 5,000 times.

Although Bai, who started out mediating in grassroots disputes before finding a TV platform, is adored by many Shanghai residents, her comments have been condemned by some young people.

Young unmarried women have accused Bai of discriminating against them.

One reason why the comments have proved so controversial is because Bai connects virginity with a dowry.

In China, it's a tradition that a woman getting married should send gifts as a dowry to her husband's family.

The value of the dowry can to some extent decide how much respect a bride receives from her husband's family.

Bai's comments have led to discussion whether a woman's virginity should still be regarded so highly in a modern city like Shanghai, famous for its openness.

"I can't believe that people are still talking about a woman's virginity in this city and in this day and age," said a web user on a microblog. "Restraint over sex goes against humanity."

"Bai should not announce such an opinion openly, expecting that people should follow what she says," said local resident Johnny Qiu.

Some residents believed Bai made her comments simply because she is the mother of a son.

However, other people welcomed Bai's views.

According to a survey hosted by, 53.2 percent of more than 100,264 people taking part considered premarital sex an unacceptable act of "moral degeneration."

And some 70 percent of participants said when their sons are getting married, they would be concerned whether the brides were virgins.

"Aunty Bai is totally right," said one netizen.

He added: "Why should I marry a woman and support the marriage with a one-million-yuan (US$152,150) apartment if she lost her virginity a dozen years ago in a cheap motel room that charges 100 yuan?"

In China, men these days are expected to provide an apartment for their bride. In Shanghai, the standard has been raised as it is said that an ideal husband should at least have one apartment, one car and no loans before considering marriage.


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