Marriage, Mao-Style

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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.

.For more Steven Heller, check out Inside the Business of Illustration—one of the many Heller titles available at