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New Elements in the Revised Marriage Law

After legislative and public debates for several years, the highly expected amendments to Marriage Law were finally passed by NPC, according to which family and women's rights will be better protected.

Main Revisions of Marriage Law

The Standing Committee of the Ninth National People's Congress (NPC), the nation's top legislative body, passed the long-debated amendments to the Marriage Law on April 28, the closing day of its 21st session.

The amendments to the 20-year-old Marriage Law were passed by 127 votes in favor, one against and nine abstentions.

One of the guiding principles behind the revision was to protect the rights of women and children, according to Wang Shengming, a member of NPC's law committee.

Adultery Outlawed

It has been rampant in some developed provinces in recent years that people cohabitate with a person other than his spouse, regarding this woman as the "second wife." The new marriage law reaffirms that husband and wife should be faithful to, and respect, each other, as well as safeguarding the marriage and family relations featuring equality, harmony and civilization.

Clause 2 of Article 3 further clarifies the ban on bigamy and cohabitation with a person other than one's spouse.

Committing bigamy will thus lead to criminal punishment, with a maximum of two-year imprisonment, according to the Criminal Code.

The revised law regulates when one party is involved in bigamy and cohabitation with someone other than the legal spouse, divorce should be granted after mediation if either side files such an application, accompanied by compensation to the betrayed spouse.

Marriage Nullity and Revocation Added

The new marriage law has established many new principles and systems applicable to the civil law, and the system of nullifying or revoking a marriage is one of them.

The revised marriage law stipulates the marriage can be nullified in the following cases: bigamy; spouse with a blood relationship banned by law; spouse with disease impropriate to the marriage; and spouse below the lawful age of marriage.

According to the new marriage law, forced marriages can be revoked once the aggrieved files a notice of repeal to the people's court or the marriage registration bureau.

Property Division Clarified

The revised marriage law has set the scope of jointly owned and individually owned property more clearly.

Property gained within the span of marriage, such as salary, profits, IPR earnings and inheritance other than those specified by the marriage law, are considered jointly owned property.

The law stipulates at the same time that one party's pre-marriage private property, medical compensation, living allowance for the disabled, inherited or granted property designated to only one party and daily necessities exclusively for one party are considered individually owned.

In divorce cases, property division should be determined under contract by both parties. Should they fail, the people's court will make decisions in favor of the offspring and the female.

The law also confirms the validity of a contract concerning property owning signed by spouses, supports the fault indemnity system at the time of divorce and punishes false property claims and property transfers at the time of divorce.

Domestic Violence Punished

The revised marriage law stipulates clearly that domestic violence and maltreatment of family members are banned. The victim has the right to ask for mediation, and administrative and criminal liability claims will be pressed in accordance with different levels of domestic violence.

Women and children will now get more legal support to protect their rights within the family unit.

(china.org.cn by Gao Kun 05/15/2001)

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