China reinterprets untying the knot

Tue Aug 30, 2011 11:01am EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

BEIJING (Reuters) - After Jia Lin divorced twenty years ago, his wife got both house and son, leaving the Beijing cook with little more than a fresh start.

Stepping into the divorce registration office two decades later to retrieve his records, the stooped 51-year-old said the fate of his house could be very different now.

China's top court issued a reinterpretation of the country's divorce law this month, saying that the spouse who buys a house before marriage has the right to keep it after a split-up. Before, the property was usually divided equally between the two sides.

"Each side should get back what was his or hers beforehand," Jia said. "I think that's fair."

But many Chinese, especially women, disagree.

They say the new interpretation favors men, who traditionally buy the house in China, often before they marry. Critics also say the penalty for infidelity is now close to nil.

"Now the man doesn't have to be responsible for what happens to the woman," said Beijing resident Xu Weiqin, 40, who said her friend is being kicked out of her husband's house in the midst of a divorce.

The new interpretation by the male-dominated Supreme People's Court has stirred debate in a country where home ownership is particularly valued.

Chinese men are widely expected to own a house if they want to marry, so much so that a wedding sans house is called a "naked wedding." Some parents now start a home-purchase fund for their child as soon as they know it is a boy.   Continued...