Marriage, Mao-Style

In April 1950, the Central People’s Government Council at its seventh meeting adopted and then promulgated “The Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China” by order of Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Central People’s Government. It was a radical departure from the long-held patriarchal Chinese marriage traditions. Mao sought to elevate women and bestow upon them more rights than under the previous rule. Towards this aim he granted women the right to sue for divorce. This Marriage Law (reproduced below in the Foreign Languages Press, Peking, edition) remained in force until a second, slightly more liberal act was instituted in 1980.

The Great Emancipator of Women?

If you think marriage is an issue in the U.S., this makes fascinating and at once libertarian and iron-fisted reading. The Marriage Law was again amended in 2003 to outlaw married persons’ cohabitation with a third party (take that France!). Same sex marriage has been addressed but not acted upon by law.

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4 thoughts on “Marriage, Mao-Style

  1. Steven Heller Post author

    What is difficult to fathom is how narrow the minds of some people can be. This is not a celebration of Mao, admittedly an iron fisted demigod with considerable blood on his hands. I take for granted that the readers of this column are indeed well informed enough to know that without reminding them. It is in light of this fact that this document is so fascinating. If the result of publishing it results in hoards of unenlightened souls becoming nouveau-Maoists, then I beg forgiveness. If, on the other hand, readers find it historically of interest and decidedly curious, then that’s fine. To those who are sratching their heads over the inclusion of this material, I am drawn to how documents of this nature, which have such consequence on the lives of many, are designed. The content, however, comes first and the package second.

  2. vanderleun

    What a great man. And it was a great thing he was doing so much for women since he was so busy making fewer of them all the time! How sad that our present great leader, Obama, does not yet have the great vision that makes these purges possible!
    “Mao was also responsible for a number of political policies generally seen as disastrous. These include the three-anti/five-anti campaigns, the anti-rightist movement and the struggle sessions. The political persecution that resulted from these policies cause many deaths. Among them were direct executions, mass-suicides caused by persecution, and labour camps that killed many through over-work and poor conditions. Most would agree that Mao is largely responsible for the policies that caused these deaths, which are estimated to total between 30 and 40 million people. Certainly Mao was aware of the killing, and took no shame in his ordering of political executions, being quoted as saying “We must probably execute 10,000 to several tens of thousands of embezzlers nationwide before we can solve the problem.”

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  3. Kristen

    Understand you’re trying to highlight the marriage issue, and that this is part of history. I’m not sure Mao is the best way to do this, though. Who’s next? A lesson from Che? Civil rights from Hitler? Mao’s time in power is not one to celebrate, for many reasons. Time to do a little homework.