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Change in China's marriage law stirs up controversy

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.

world Updated: Aug 21, 2011 13:45 IST

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% annual increase, according to figures released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

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