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    Chinese Netizens Ask: Should Boys be Allowed in Women-Only Areas?

    A 2-year-old boy and a girl peeking inside a women’s fitting room has reignited discussion on an issue that has long been debated.
    Jan 06, 2023#gender

    Two children who peeked into the women’s fitting room of a clothing store while accompanying their parents in the central province of Henan have outraged social media users, with many debating if boys should be allowed in female-only spaces, a common practice in China.

    A now-deleted video on social platform Xiaohonghsu, posted by a woman claiming to be in the fitting room, said that a boy and a girl lifted the curtains while she was getting changed at a Uniqlo store in the city of Xinyang on Tuesday. The footage shows them arguing, though parts of the argument have been muted.

    “They grabbed my phone. Their mother called me a prostitute, saying that I was being nosy and desperate to be raped,” said the woman in a separate video posted on microblogging platform Weibo.

    While the video recorded by the woman didn’t show the children lifting the curtain, their parents acknowledged they had done so in a social media post Friday. While the two parents apologized for their children’s behavior, they added that the woman shouldn’t have insulted them or cursed at the children — the boy was said to be 2 years old, while the girl’s age was unclear.

    The issue has since gone viral on social media, with many asking if boys should be allowed in women-only spaces, including fitting rooms and bathrooms. In recent years, several people have complained online of teenage boys entering women’s bathrooms with their mothers, leaving women uncomfortable while they wandered around.

    While some people defended mothers who usually had no option but to take their children with them and children who wouldn’t have gender consciousness, an expert on early childhood development weighed in on the issue Thursday. Bao Xiulan, chief physician at the pediatrics department of Peking Union Medical College Hospital, explained on Weibo that research showed children generally start to have gender awareness from about 2 years old, when they start to become curious about the opposite sex.

    “Wherever parents go, they should watch their children,” Bao said, referring to the Uniqlo incident. “The earlier you help your child with gender awareness, the easier it will be for your child to form a healthy personality.”

    Uniqlo on Wednesday told Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper, that they were investigating the case, without elaborating further. The woman from the fitting room said on Thursday that she had taken the matter to the police and didn’t respond to Sixth Tone’s interview request by publication time.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: VCG)