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New Marriage Law

The New Marriage Law (also First Marriage Law, Chinese: 新婚姻法; pinyin: Xīn Hūnyīn Fă) was a civil marriage law passed in the People's Republic of China on May 1, 1950. It was a radical change from existing patriarchal Chinese marriage traditions, and needed constant support from propaganda campaigns. It has since been superseded by the Second Marriage Law of 1980.


  • Origins 1
  • Implementation 2
  • Impact 3
  • Second Marriage Law 4
  • See also 5
  • External links 6
  • References 7


Marriage reform was one of the first priorities of the People's Republic of China when it was established in 1949.[1] Women's rights was a personal interest of Mao Zedong's, and a common issue for Chinese intellectuals since the New Culture Movement in the 1910s and 1920s.[2] Chinese marriage up until this time was often arranged or forced, concubinage was commonplace, and women could not seek divorce.[1]


The new marriage law was enacted in May 1950, delivered by Mao Zedong himself.[1] It provided a civil registry for legal marriages, raised the marriageable age to 20 for males and 18 for females, and banned marriage by proxy; both parties had to consent to a marriage. It immediately became an essential part of land reform as women in rural communities stopped being sold to landlords. The official slogan was "Men and women are equal; everyone is worth his (or her) salt".[3] As a result of yearly propaganda campaigns from 1950 to 1955 to popularize the law, more than 90% of marriages in China were registered, and thereby were considered to be compliant with the New Marriage Law.[4]


China's divorce rate, though lower than in the Western countries, is increasing. Chinese women also have increased financial importance in the household.[5] Some contemporary critics argue that the New Marriage Law has made the nature of marriage in China more materialistic.[6]

Second Marriage Law

The New Marriage Law was updated in 1980 by the Second Marriage Law, which liberalized divorce,[6] 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.[1] It was amended in 2003 to outlaw married persons' cohabitation with a third party, aimed at curbing a resurgence of concubinage in big cities.[6] Recognition of same-sex marriage has been repeatedly proposed but not adopted yet.

See also

External links

  • China Divorce and Separation: The Basics (Article)
  • Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China (1980) [English Translation]


  1. ^ a b c d Chen, Xinxin (March 2001). "Marriage Law Revisions Reflect Social Progress in China".  
  2. ^ Hughes, Sarah; Hughes, Brady (1997). Women in World History: Readings from 1500 to the present. M.E. Sharpe. p. 236.  
  3. ^ Niida, Noboro (June 2010). "Land Reform and New Marriage Law in China". The Developing Economies ( 
  4. ^ "New Marriage Law (1950)". 2009-10-21. Retrieved 2010-08-12. 
  5. ^ Wan, Elaine Y. (1998-09-10). "China's Divorce Problem" 118 (57).  
  6. ^ a b c Wen, Chihua (2010-08-04). "For love or money".  
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