Marriage Law explanation triggers controversy

Updated: 2011-08-19 16:51


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BEIJING - A judicial explanation intended to resolve real estate disputes in divorce has sparked controversy over the premise that the deprivation of wives' co-ownership of the couple's home will make them feel both insecure and unromantic.

The latest explanation to the Marriage Law, which took effect last Saturday, stipulates that houses bought on mortgage by one party prior to the marriage are to be deemed as the personal property of the registered owner, rather than the joint estate of the couple.

The explanation challenges the traditional Chinese view that to secure a marriage, the groom has to buy an apartment, which has become increasingly expensive and sometimes consumes the life savings of his family, said Liu Yan, a lawyer on marital affairs.

"But I think it's totally fair to protect the contributor's assets, because the contributor may also be the wife's family," she said.

However, Fan Li, a 30-year-old mother in southwest Chongqing municipality, believes the explanation will only make divorce more complicated.

"Just think of women's sacrifices for the family," she said. "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?"

In the online community, Internet users are divided about the explanation, with many lambasting the explanation as showing scant concern for the equal partnership of marriage and stripping wives of important leverage.

"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.

And some men -- the presumed beneficiaries --  were not relieved after the publication of the explanation.

Some future husbands wrote that they will have to go through complicated procedures to have their fiancees' 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," said Shi Lei, a divorce lawyer in Beijing.

A somewhat popular notion states 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.

If that isn't enough, women have come under fire -- being categorized as too materialistic. A 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," said "Xiaolei, " a microblogger.