Change in China`s marriage law stirs controversy

Last Updated: Sunday, August 21, 2011 - 13:57

Beijing: A ruling by China`s Supreme Court divesting wives of the right of co-ownership of property in
the event of divorce has stirred up major controversy, as it changed the country`s time honoured marriage law almost overnight.

The changed marriage law, which took effect on August 13, stipulates that houses bought on mortgage by one party prior to wedlock are to be deemed as the personal property of the
registered owner, rather than the joint estate of the couple.

The judicial ruling, intended to resolve real estate disputes in divorce cases, depriving wives` of co-ownership of a couple`s home will make them feel both insecure and unromantic, women`s and rights groups said.

Passed without any public debate, it challenges the traditional Chinese view that to secure a marriage the groom has to buy an apartment, which has become increasingly expensive, Liu Yan, a lawyer on marital affairs said.

For a Chinese man marriage is impossible without him owning an apartment, the right over, which was shared in the event of divorce as per the old rules.

The new ruling will only make divorce more complicated, Fan Li, a 30-year-old mother in southwest Chongqing Municipality said.

"Just think of women`s sacrifices for the family. When a woman loses her looks, and her husband wants to leave her, you think wives will let go and get nothing to compensate for their sweat and youth?" she asked.

The ruling came amid reports that China`s divorce rate has reached an all-time high. More than 4.65 lakh married couples filed for divorce in the first quarter of 2011, a 17.1 per cent annual increase,
according to figures released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

More than 82 per cent of women saw "singledom" as a positive way of life, as per Chen`s demographic studies in 2007.

Also, Census figures show that the sex ratio has increased with 118 males for every 100 females in 2010.

The ruling stirred up a heated debate in the country`s 480 million strong internet users with many lambasting the ruling for stripping wives of important leverage and showing scant concern for the equal partnership of marriage.

"The latest explanation has turned husbands into landlords," wrote a microblogger "Leslie_Zou" on the Chinese Twitter-like service Sina Weibo.

The consensus throughout China is that a jointly-held home makes both men and women feel secure within the marriage, and the price of misconduct or an extramarital affair would be losing half of the home.

Another microblogger, identified as "Barry0922," wrote "men aren`t trustworthy, and I`m afraid I`ll get nothing in a divorce."

A female blogger "Xiaopaopao" said, the regulation was more about personal asset protection and less about people`s feelings, according to reports in the official media.

Some future husbands wrote that they will have to go through complicated procedures to have their fiancé’s names registered under the property.

"My future mother-in-law won`t consent to the marriage before both of our names are registered," a male microblogger said.

But some believe the new explanation will at least make young people think more seriously about their relationships.

"Those, who aren`t serious about marriage and marry for the sake of property will have to think twice, because the new law will protect the contributor`s interest," Shi Lei, a divorce lawyer in Beijing, said.

A somewhat popular Chinese notion has often stated that finding a wife can be a nightmare for men, as they work longer hours, deal with nagging parents, and face a significant gender imbalance.

Women have also come under fire being categorised as too materialistic. Another popular stereotype is that many women demand an apartment before they`ll agree to accept a marriage proposal, and that some actively seek a marriage that will provide overnight wealth.

Although many argue over the "business" of marriage, some remain staunch in their belief that property will always come second to love. "Marriage is built on true love not a house,"
microblogger "Xiaolei" said.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, August 21, 2011 - 13:57

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