According to a recent report, Chinese divorce law has a negative impact on women’s well-being. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
In the past, China’s Supreme Court amended women’s property rights in 2011 by ruling that family homes purchased prior to marriage automatically belong to the registered buyer upon divorce, which was traditionally the husband.
Previously, marital dwellings were deemed joint property under China’s 1980 Marriage Law. Despite its gender-neutral phrasing, the 2011 law appeared to favour males over women, because most family residences in China grant deeds to husbands, who are traditionally required to provide a house as a prerequisite for marriage.
The new interpretation, which overturned two prior judicial verdicts bolstering women’s property rights, fueled fears that China was regressing on gender equality.
In a new study, Yale sociologist Emma Zang looked at the effects of the 2011 judicial interpretation on men’s and women’s well-being.
According to Zang’s analysis, couples began responding to the change by making arrangements more in keeping with Chinese culture, which requires married couples to divide property equally. She discovered that spouses, for example, evaded the ruling by transferring ownership to their children.
It’s not just a case of males gaining and women losing. Couples, on the other hand, are evolving to protect one another’s well-being.
“The consequences of the law reform are more difficult than people anticipated,” said Zang, an assistant professor of sociology at Yale.
The Institute of Social Science Survey at Peking University conducts a nationally representative longitudinal survey that collects information at the individual, family, and community levels and analyses social and economic trends.
The time range allowed Zang to assess people’s well-being prior to the judicial ruling and five years after it took effect.
She cites four socioeconomic variables that influenced the court’s decision to change China’s divorce law: First, enormous wealth was amassed as a result of the rising Chinese economy, prompting the establishment of property laws in 2007.
Following that, housing prices climbed by more than 10% per year beginning in 2003, indicating that individuals were investing more than ever in homes. Third, divorce rates began to rise, heightening fears among men’s families about losing household money as a result of a divorce.
Finally, social media began broadcasting divorce cases involving property issues, casting doubt on the court system’s integrity.
The study illustrates that policymakers must examine the possibility that ostensibly gender-neutral measures can have gendered implications.
The court decision might have far-reaching consequences in a country of 1.3 billion people, whose marriage and property ownership rates are 73 percent and 90 percent, respectively.
She discovered that the reform had a considerable negative impact on women’s well-being in the short term. According to her, the detrimental effect was especially strong for women who were at high risk of divorce. She determined that the ruling had no major impact on men’s well-being, either positive or negative.
Despite these changes, the divorce law change has long-term consequences, according to Zang.
According to her, the majority of women did not fully reclaim their property rights. “The change has also resulted in women performing more housework, leaving them with less leisure time.”
The study illustrates that ostensibly gender-neutral measures, such as the reform in China’s divorce legislation, can have gendered implications.