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Are men freer to divorce wives?

By Wen Sheng (People's Daily Online)

09:51, August 19, 2011

The Supreme People's Court's new interpretation of the Marriage Act makes a clearer demarcation of spouses' property, but it has also sent the whole nation into a whirlpool of debate about an ominous result of freer breakup of families.

The legal explanation, which came out on Saturday, rules that houses and other major properties – not explicitly put in the names of both partners on legal papers – are solely belongings of the initial owner. In China, men are usually obligated to buy a house prior to marriage.

Originally, the law said the properties must be evenly cut and distributed between the divorced partners.

Opponents of the interpretation decry it as official abandoning of one of Chinese fine cultures -- close family – as the new interpretation is to encourage men or women to seek extramarital affairs, needless to fear property loss.

"There will be fewer economic means to restrain the man's behavior after marriage, because even if he cheats he'll still get the house," complained a 33-year-old married woman surnamed Wu.

She estimated that many women are disillusioned by the new act and inclined to take a wait-and-see attitude. Many will refuse to be married, because they fear once they are divorced, they will get nothing – not a roof. Nevertheless, more females will begin to work hard and try to buy their own houses.

By protecting the rights of house owners, the new explanation is believed to bring China one substantive step closer to Western legislative values that prioritize private rights over anything else. Some opponents even claim that it will move the country faster on the road of becoming a commercialized society.

However, proponents say that by removing economic bandages, marriages would become more based on "true love".

"If a law or interpretation could clear the road to divorce for many economically, it should not be regarded as a bad thing. Marriage should be a free choice. Once the economic obstacles are removed, it will become freer," said Law Professor Li Hong-xiang from Jilin University.

He said the new interpretation reflected a change of the social environment in China caused by the shift from a planned economy to a market economy. There have been changes in economy, culture and people's mindset. But the most prominent change is that people pay more attention to individual rights and freedom.

By clarifying ownership of property, those women or men's "dreams of marrying to houses and fortunes" are scuttled, and the law supporters say it is a huge progress.


Leave your comment4 comments

  1. Name

Rick at 2011-08-2471.17.85.*
This seems much fairer to men than the laws in the west where men never get custody of the children and always lose the house, even if it was their house to begin with. This is a good law.
PD User at 2011-08-23218.22.176.*
yes ,i think the new marriage law is much better for men to divoice ,it is not good to protect the women"s right .
AussieLouis at 2011-08-2258.170.134.*
In Western nations, the wives either get the whole house which is more usual as she has custody of the children or have a half share.Chines women should fight for this ruling to be fair tothemselves and their children!
George at 2011-08-2261.185.201.*
Divorce belongs to the rich.The poor have to think of how to survive or live.

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