China: Legislation Focuses on Rural Women's Marrying Rights
The document has clear rules for women marrying outside their village. It says: "Women's legal rights should not be infringed upon due to marriage, divorce, or death of the spouse. Their legal rights in the place of Hukou, or registered residence, shall not be infringed upon." "A rural woman, who is a member of the village collective economy, and whose Hukou, or registered residence, is still in its hometown or still at her husband's after a divorce or the death of the spouse, shall enjoy equal rights and interests as other members of the collective economy, as long as she bear the obligations and responsibilities of the collective economy."
With the rapid development of rural economy, the number of women who marry men from other backgrounds increases. The problem becomes a potential threat for social stability while many places or areas have harmed or damaged the rights and interests of this vulnerable social group.
The Pearl-River-Delta Zone of Guangdong alone has about 300,000 women marrying outside their village and therefore facing the problems of the infringement of their rights and interests. About 70 percent of such women could not have their problems settled. Many women in such circumstances have questioned that why even they carry out the same responsibilities as a villager, should they not be able to enjoy the same rights as a villager.
Lu Ying, director of the Sex/Gender Education Center at Sun Yat-sen University, has dealt with over a 100 cases on the rights and interests of women marrying outside their village. Lu said that a misunderstanding existed in many rural areas. People think what is agreed upon by the majority is just legitimate, Lu said. Actually, law does not mean to only protect the rights of a certain group of people, or the majority only. Law also protects the legal rights of a minority.
The Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women (adopted in 1992) clearly outlines that "Women shall enjoy equal rights with men in the allotment of responsibility farmland, or grain ration farmland and in the approval of housing sites in rural areas, and women's lawful rights thereto shall not be infringed upon. After marriage or divorce, women's responsibility farmland, grain ration farmland and housing sites shall be secured."
In 2001, the Central Government issued the Announcement of Protecting Rural Women's Rights in Land Contracting, which brings under control the infringements on women's legal rights and interests in renewing land contracts.
In August 2002, the National People's Congress passed the Rural Land Contract Law which says that "women have the equal rights as men in contracting the rural land. In the contracting of land, women's legal rights and interests should be protected, and no organizations and individuals are allowed to deprive of and infringe upon women's land rights."
The 2005 amendment to the Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women regulates "Women shall enjoy equal rights with men in contracted management of land, distribution of the earnings of the collective economic organizations, use of the compensations for expropriated or requisitioned land and use of housing sites in rural areas."
The result of the amendment is not very satisfactory. Many villagers' committees disobey the law on account of the villagers' autonomy. The rules by the villagers' committee should not go against the constitution, law, regulations and national policies. However, the amendment has no clear rules or legal responsibilities against infringement.
To solve such problems, the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress has issued the measures to promote the implementation of the law. This local legislation has clarified on the legal rights for women marrying out and corresponding judicial aid.
Cheng Jingchu, deputy director of the Commission of Legislative Affairs of the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress, said whether a rural woman is a member of her collective economy group determines her right to the property distribution. The measures answer such a question and restore the legal rights for women who marry husbands from another collective economic group.
Previously, a woman marrying outside her group could not press a charge immediately after her rights and interests were infringed in her village. She had to appeal to the town government for her village's misdoing. After a governmental decision was issued, she could go to court if her problem had still not been settled. According to the new measures, however, such a woman could directly press charges at court if her village violated articles in the measures.
Cheng Jingchu said that it was the first attempt in China to safeguard the rights and interests of women marrying outside their group by the issuance of law and regulations, adding it had profound and significant meanings.
1 August 2008
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