China: Marriage law interpretation could leave many divorced women homeless

Publication Date: 
September 7, 2011
New York Times

BEIJING — Millions of Chinese women, and some men, woke on Aug. 13 to discover their spouse had, in effect, become their landlord.

On that day, the Supreme Court’s new interpretation of the 1980 Marriage Law came into force, stipulating that property bought before marriage, either outright or on mortgage, reverted to the buyer on divorce. Previously, the family home had been considered joint property. Experts agree the change would mostly affect women, since men traditionally provide the family home.

Bride's Death in China Spurs Anti-Violence Bill

Publication Date: 
August 3, 2011
Women's eNews


SHENZHEN, China (WOMENSENEWS)–When other brides would have been enjoying their honeymoons, Dong Shanshan was calling the police.

In the next 10 months, her calls became more and more desperate as her husband, Wang Guangyu, repeatedly beat her till she passed out and kidnapped her when she escaped. Her eight calls to the police did nothing. They declined to intervene in the affairs of a married couple.

Ending Footbinding and Infibulation: A Convention Account

Publication Date: 
December, 1996

This is a paper was published in the American Sociological Review, 1996, Col. 61 (December, pg.999-1017.)

Female genital mutilation in Africa persists despite modernization, public education, and legal prohibition. Female footbinding in China lasted for 1,000 years but ended in a single generation. 1 show that each practice is a self-enforcing convention, in Schelling's (1960) sense, maintained by interdependent expectations on the marriage market. Each practice originated under conditions of extreme resource polygyny as a means of enforcing the imperial male's exclusive sexual access to his female consorts. Extreme polygyny also caused a competitive upward flow of women and a downward flow of conjugal practices, accounting for diffusion of the practices. A Schelling coordination diagram explains how the three methods of the Chinese campaign to abolish footbinding succeeded in bringing it to a quick end. The pivotal innovation was to form associations of parents who pledged not to footbind their daughters nor let their sons marry footbound women. The "convention" hypothesis predicts that promotion of such pledge associations would help bring female genital mutilation to an end.