Freedom from Wedded Bondage

  • November 25, 2011
  • Editor: Sun Xi
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The 1920s saw the introduction of western culture and consequently wedding conventions to China. Many Chinese had become Christians while studying abroad and held church weddings on their return. [wangchen.ccmedu.com]

The 1920s saw the introduction of western culture and consequently wedding conventions to China. Many Chinese had become Christians while studying abroad and held church weddings on their return. [wangchen.ccmedu.com]

Freedom at A Cost

In 1952, Li Na remarried during the local movement that brought the new Marriage Law into effect.

As a woman resident of rural Jingzhou, Hubei Province, Li Na counts herself as lucky back then to have been able to remarry.

"My divorce would not have been so smooth if my paraplegic husband had not been sent for re-education," Li Na said.

"Despite the promotion of the state power and legal sanction, divorce was still a dangerous matter in rural China in the early years of New China," Professor Li said.

Thousands of rural women were abused, unfairly treated, killed or compelled to commit suicide due to residual feudal impediments to new marriage and family ethics.

In early 1950, a rural woman resident of Yu County, north China's Shanxi Province received 40 strokes of a wooden paddle from the village Party branch secretary as punishment for her request for a divorce. The husband of another woman named Wang Sinv from Youyu County, Shanxi Province, stabbed and seriously injured her when she asked for a divorce. But the County Court ruled: "You've been married for three years. You should admonish your husband if you are discontent with him. But you should not go against our traditional morality and soil your reputation by proposing a divorce. You should be punished. But as you are injured, we will not punish you. We expect you to reflect on the wrong you have committed."

In July of the same year, a woman surnamed Wang of Linquan County in central China's Anhui Province applied to the county government for a divorce. The village head Li Jinding held a villagers meeting which criticized and denounced her as frivolous. That night Wang hanged herself.

The deep despair of women trying to escape from married servitude is evident in the 122 women of Hui'an City, southeast China's Fujian Province, who killed themselves from October 1949 to August 1950.

Records of women's federations in eastern China show that 1,245 women in Shandong Province committed suicide in 1950 because of domestic abuse. These were only the filed cases. A further 119 women killed themselves or were beaten to death from May to August, 1950, in nine counties in Huaiyin Area of northern Jiangsu Province.

"Grassroots leaders and residents of certain rural areas were unable to reconcile the aims, nature, principles and specific practices entailed in following central government instructions to implement the Marriage Law with the laws and conventions that had always existed. This inability to accept such fundamental changes which women so welcomed resulted in high incidences of killings and malfeasance," Professor Li said.

Li Na showed no surprise when she heard these statistics. She simply commented that she had been lucky.

To put an end to these killings and suicides and bring into effect true freedom of marriage, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China announced in November 1952 that March 1953 would be the campaign month for promoting and implementing the Marriage Law.

In February 1953, the former Government Administration Council announced the launch of the mass movement to publicize the Marriage Law and enforce its implementation. Its purpose was to destroy the feudal convention of arranged and forced marriages and establish the new marriage system of gender equality and freedom. The family unit would then function according to the principles of democracy, harmony and unity of production, and so strengthen the country's economic and cultural construction.

The campaign to bring the new marriage law into practice utilized mass occasions such as temple fairs, mass rallies, meetings of villagers and women representatives, cadres' meetings, evening schools and reading groups.

The law was also promoted through lectures radio, drama, folk songs, and yangko dances.

The Ministry of Culture of the Central People's Government also wrote plays themed on marriage issues such as, For Happiness, People That Cannot Be Confined, and Between Husband And Wife. There were also performances of historical plays that fitted the theme of the marriage law such as The Butterfly Lovers, and The White Snake.

Records testify to the effectiveness of this campaign. Liu Luoben, a villager in Huangzhuang Village, Baoding City, Hebei Province, head of a family of 13 members, and a firm advocate of the patriarchal approach to family life, often beat the women members of his family, including his daughters-in-law. After attending classes given by the publicity working group, Liu acknowledged in a family meeting the ills of the feudal patriarchal system and confessed his mistakes.

Meanwhile, to prevent excesses of marriage and divorce, the government brought into effect strict marriage registration procedures entailing legal constraints to make marriage a more binding institution.
 
"When the revolutionary soldiers told me I was free I didn't understand. But when the government said that the women could ask for a divorce, I realized I was saved and didn't have wait for a better next life," the woman said. "It was 1949, and I was divorced at 18."

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  • Freedom from Wedded Bondage2011-11-25   Editor: Sun Xi

    The 1920s saw the introduction of western culture and consequently wedding conventions to China. Many Chinese had become Christians while studying abroad and held church weddings on their return. [wangchen.ccmedu.com]

    The 1920s saw the introduction of western culture and consequently wedding conventions to China. Many Chinese had become Christians while studying abroad and held church weddings on their return. [wangchen.ccmedu.com]

    Freedom at A Cost

    In 1952, Li Na remarried during the local movement that brought the new Marriage Law into effect.

    As a woman resident of rural Jingzhou, Hubei Province, Li Na counts herself as lucky back then to have been able to remarry.

    "My divorce would not have been so smooth if my paraplegic husband had not been sent for re-education," Li Na said.

    "Despite the promotion of the state power and legal sanction, divorce was still a dangerous matter in rural China in the early years of New China," Professor Li said.

    Thousands of rural women were abused, unfairly treated, killed or compelled to commit suicide due to residual feudal impediments to new marriage and family ethics.

    In early 1950, a rural woman resident of Yu County, north China's Shanxi Province received 40 strokes of a wooden paddle from the village Party branch secretary as punishment for her request for a divorce. The husband of another woman named Wang Sinv from Youyu County, Shanxi Province, stabbed and seriously injured her when she asked for a divorce. But the County Court ruled: "You've been married for three years. You should admonish your husband if you are discontent with him. But you should not go against our traditional morality and soil your reputation by proposing a divorce. You should be punished. But as you are injured, we will not punish you. We expect you to reflect on the wrong you have committed."

    In July of the same year, a woman surnamed Wang of Linquan County in central China's Anhui Province applied to the county government for a divorce. The village head Li Jinding held a villagers meeting which criticized and denounced her as frivolous. That night Wang hanged herself.

    The deep despair of women trying to escape from married servitude is evident in the 122 women of Hui'an City, southeast China's Fujian Province, who killed themselves from October 1949 to August 1950.

    Records of women's federations in eastern China show that 1,245 women in Shandong Province committed suicide in 1950 because of domestic abuse. These were only the filed cases. A further 119 women killed themselves or were beaten to death from May to August, 1950, in nine counties in Huaiyin Area of northern Jiangsu Province.

    "Grassroots leaders and residents of certain rural areas were unable to reconcile the aims, nature, principles and specific practices entailed in following central government instructions to implement the Marriage Law with the laws and conventions that had always existed. This inability to accept such fundamental changes which women so welcomed resulted in high incidences of killings and malfeasance," Professor Li said.

    Li Na showed no surprise when she heard these statistics. She simply commented that she had been lucky.

    To put an end to these killings and suicides and bring into effect true freedom of marriage, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China announced in November 1952 that March 1953 would be the campaign month for promoting and implementing the Marriage Law.

    In February 1953, the former Government Administration Council announced the launch of the mass movement to publicize the Marriage Law and enforce its implementation. Its purpose was to destroy the feudal convention of arranged and forced marriages and establish the new marriage system of gender equality and freedom. The family unit would then function according to the principles of democracy, harmony and unity of production, and so strengthen the country's economic and cultural construction.

    The campaign to bring the new marriage law into practice utilized mass occasions such as temple fairs, mass rallies, meetings of villagers and women representatives, cadres' meetings, evening schools and reading groups.

    The law was also promoted through lectures radio, drama, folk songs, and yangko dances.

    The Ministry of Culture of the Central People's Government also wrote plays themed on marriage issues such as, For Happiness, People That Cannot Be Confined, and Between Husband And Wife. There were also performances of historical plays that fitted the theme of the marriage law such as The Butterfly Lovers, and The White Snake.

    Records testify to the effectiveness of this campaign. Liu Luoben, a villager in Huangzhuang Village, Baoding City, Hebei Province, head of a family of 13 members, and a firm advocate of the patriarchal approach to family life, often beat the women members of his family, including his daughters-in-law. After attending classes given by the publicity working group, Liu acknowledged in a family meeting the ills of the feudal patriarchal system and confessed his mistakes.

    Meanwhile, to prevent excesses of marriage and divorce, the government brought into effect strict marriage registration procedures entailing legal constraints to make marriage a more binding institution.
     
    "When the revolutionary soldiers told me I was free I didn't understand. But when the government said that the women could ask for a divorce, I realized I was saved and didn't have wait for a better next life," the woman said. "It was 1949, and I was divorced at 18."

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