Women, Property, and Law in the People's Republic of China

Jonathan K. Ocko

in Marriage and Inequality in Chinese Society

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 1991 | ISBN: 9780520069305
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520910454 | DOI:
Women, Property, and Law in the People's Republic of China

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This chapter focuses on the connections between social practice and enacted law, particularly enacted laws in the People's Republic of China designed to alter the relationship of women and property in an effort to decrease gender inequalities in Chinese society. In the Ch'ing code, women's relation to property, unlike men's, was nearly always mediated by marriage. Whatever property a woman got from her natal family came as a marriage portion; whatever claims she had to the use of her husband's estate after his death depended on her staying there, not leaving her husband's family to marry someone else. In the twentieth century, new laws fundamentally altered the legal basis of gender differentiation. The chapter examines the revisions of the law code aimed at improving women's property rights, especially the 1950 and 1980 marriage laws and the 1985 inheritance law. It shows that despite the persistence of long-held cultural notions now labeled “feudal,” some real change is discernible, above all in the rights of widows to inherit from their husbands.

Keywords: social practice; marriage laws; women; property rights; gender inequality; widows; inheritance law

Chapter.  16183 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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