In May 1950, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) promulgated this Marriage Law, one of several important social reforms of the period. This legislation gave Chinese women equality previously denied under the old regime. Marriage became a contract between two consenting parties while divorced was legalised and simplified. Bigamy, concubinage, arranged marriages and compulsory dowries were also declared illegal:
The feudal marriage system based on the arbitrary and compulsory arrangements and supreme act of man over woman, and in the disregard of the interests of children, is abolished.
Bigamy, concubinage, interference in re-marriage of widows and the extraction of money or gifts in connection with marriages are prohibited.
Marriage is based upon the complete willingness of the two parties. Neither party shall use compulsion and no third party is allowed to interfere.
A marriage can be contracted only after the man has reached 20 years of age and the woman 18 years of age.
No man or woman is allowed to marry in any of the following instances:
a. Where the man and woman are lineal relatives by blood or where the man and woman are brother and sister born of the same parents or where the man and woman are half-brother and half-sister…
b. Where one party, because of certain defects, is sexually impotent,
c. Where one party is suffering from venereal disease, mental disorder, leprosy or any other disease which is regarded by medical science as rendering a person unfit for marriage.
In order to contract a marriage, both the man and the woman should register in person with the people’s government of the district or township in which they reside. If the proposed marriage is found to be in conformity with the provision of this Law, the local people’s government should, without delay, issue marriage certificates. If the proposed marriage is not found to be in conformity with the provisions of this Law, registration should not be granted.
Husband and wife are companions living together and enjoy equal status in the home.
Husband and wife are in duty bound to love, respect, assist and look after each other, to live in harmony, to engage in productive work, to care for their children and strive jointly for the welfare of the family and for the building up the new society.
Both the husband and wife have the right of free choice of occupation and free participation in work or in social
Husband and wife have equal rights in the possession and management of the family property.
Husband and wife have the right to use his or her own family name.
Husband and wife have the right to inherit each other’s property.
Parents have the duty to rear and to educate their children; the children have the duty to support and to assist their parents. Neither the parents nor the children shall mistreat or desert one another… Infanticide by drowning and similar criminal acts are strictly prohibited.
Parents and children have the right to inherit one another’s property.
Children born out of wedlock enjoy the same rights as children born in lawful wedlock. No person is allowed to harm them or discriminate against them…
Divorce is granted when husband and wife both desire it. In the event of neither the husband or the wife alone insisting upon divorce, it may be granted only when mediation by the district people’s government and the judicial organ has failed to bring about a reconciliation…”