This Day in History: China Enacts New Marriage Law

By Ned Kelly, April 29, 2021

2 1

Marriage reform was one of the first priorities of the People’s Republic of China on its establishment in 1949. Up until this time, Chinese marriages were often arranged or forced, concubinage was commonplace and women could not seek divorce. 

On May 1, 1950 the New Marriage Law, or – Xin Hunyin Fa 新婚姻法 – was enacted. Personally delivered by Mao Zedong – who famously declared “Women hold up half the sky” – the law provided a civil registry for legal marriages, raised the marriageable age to 20 for males and 18 for females, and stipulated that marriage had to be mutually consensual.

It immediately helped implement land reform, as it outlawed the common practice of selling peasant women to landlords (sometimes before entering puberty). The radical change from existing patriarchal traditions required constant support from propaganda campaigns, with the official slogan being “Men and women are equal; everyone is worth their salt.”

The New Marriage Law was superseded by the Second Marriage Law of 1980, which introduced the one-child policy and instructed the courts to favor the interests of women and children in property distribution in divorce. Further updates in 1983 legalized marriage with foreigners and interracial marriage.


Click here for more history stories.

more news

This Day in History: The Foreign Founder Member of the CPC

The Dutch socialist who attended the First National Congress of the CPC.

This Day in History: China's Otherworldly 'Alien Sky Spiral' of 1981

A giant spiral in the sky, a spiral allegedly seen by 10 million people in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

This Day in History: Henry Kissinger Secretly Visits China

Half a century ago, then-US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger flew to Beijing to meet with Chinese officials.

This Day in History: Hong Kong Handover From UK to China

On July 1, 1997, China resumed its control of Hong Kong after 156 years of British rule.

This Day in History: China Develops the Hydrogen Bomb

June 1967 sees China become the world's fourth thermonuclear power.

This Day in History: Zhu Jianhua Sets High Jump Record

On June 11, 1983 Shanghai-born high jumper Zhu Jianhua cleared 2.37m at a meet in Beijing, setting a new world record.

This Day in History: Did This Chinese Man Have Sex With an Alien?

There's strange, and then there's this story...

This Day in History: Mukden Tiger Warlord Assassinated by Japan

On June 4, 1928, a train carrying warlord Zhang Zuolin from Beijing to Shenyang was ripped apart by a huge explosion.

1 User Comments

    In Case You Missed It…

    We're on WeChat!

    Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at Thats_Shanghai for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

    7 Days in Shanghai With thatsmags.com

    Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

    Subscribe

    Download previous issues

    Never miss an issue of That's Shanghai!

    Visit the archives