Study shows effects of Chinese divorce law on women’s wellbeing

china-divorce-ynews_v01(Illustration by Michael S. Helfenbein)

By Mike Cummings

In 2011, China’s Supreme Court dealt a blow to the property rights of women by ruling that family homes purchased before marriage automatically belong to the registered buyer upon divorce, historically the husband. Previously, under China’s 1980 Marriage Law, marital houses were considered joint property. While gender neutral in its language, the 2011 ruling seemed likely to advantage men over women since most family homes in China are deeded to husbands, who by custom are expected to provide a house as a prerequisite for marriage. The new interpretation, which overruled two previous judicial rulings strengthening women’s property rights, raised concerns that China was regressing on gender equality.In a new study, Yale sociologist Emma Zang examined the consequences of the 2011 judicial interpretation on the wellbeing of men and women. Published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, it found that while the judicial interpretation initially diminished women’s wellbeing by depriving them of property rights and economic autonomy, the negative effects weakened over the long term.Zang’s analysis showed that couples began adapting to the reform through arrangements more in line with Chinese tradition mandating that married couples share property equally. She found, for example, that couples circumvented the ruling by transferring ownership to their children… YALE NEWS

 

 

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