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Proposal to help Chinese 'gay wives' stirs debate

By Wang Ruoyao (Xinhua)

08:07, January 18, 2013

BEIJING, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- A recent court proposal has brought new hope to women who have unwittingly married gay men, prompting vibrant discussions about how to protect the women while upholding gay rights.

In a report released last week, the First Intermediate People's Court of Beijing called for legislation to allow those who discover their spouses are homosexual to file for an annulment as an alternative to divorce.

The report said the number of such cases has been increasing. Current marriage law does not provide an "out" for such marriages and many of the wives view divorce unfavorably.

China has at least 10 million "gay wives," according to prominent sexologist Zhang Beichuan, adding that nearly 90 percent of gay men are already married to or will eventually marry heterosexual women, as same-sex marriage is banned in the country.

After annulling their marriages, the legal marital status of the women in question would be restored to "single" instead of "divorced."

Some plaintiffs believe the change will better protect their rights, the report said.

The proposal will be advantageous for gay wives who do not wish to be labeled as divorcees, said "Tabitha," a volunteer with the Tongqi Association, an online support group for wives of gay men.

"A divorced man in his 40s can still be sought-after and find a 20-something woman to marry. But when it comes to a divorced woman of the same age, that is absolutely not the case," said the 24-year-old Chinese woman, who has counseled scores of wives on the issue.

"Zheyi," a former wife of a gay man, said she would rather spend the rest of her life alone. She ended her seven-year marriage a month ago.

"I've lost faith in love and marriage," she said, adding that it is very difficult for a divorced 35-year-old woman to find an ideal husband, especially in smaller cities, where people are more conservative.

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