It wasn’t this time. For same-sex couples in China, the arrival of the new Civil Code represents a missed opportunity. The lack of recognition of same-sex union was frustrating – but it wasn’t surprising.
The First Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China entered into force on January 1. He consolidated the existing legislation and brought new ones. Without breaking taboos, however.
At the stage of public consultation, the draft Civil Code received around 1 million suggestions from more than 400,000 people – a high number even by Chinese standards.
The recognition of same-sex marriage was one of the most recurrent proposals of the population, according to the authorities themselves.
What is surprising, however, is the fact that authorities have drawn attention to this popular endorsement. More than a consolation prize, it signals a small change in attitude towards homosexuality, considered until 2001 as a psychiatric disorder in China.
In the new Civil Code, a novelty linked to divorce has sparked controversy: after filing, the application now only advances after 30 days. For the authorities, a deadline to avoid rash decisions.
For networks, more than anything harmless, delays increase the risk for women subjected to domestic violence. But the so-called “payback” remained.
In the same vein, the code does not explain – despite the suggestions – the right of single women to have children. While there will still be single mothers in China, the legislation, it is argued, could reduce stigma and increase protection for single-parent families. It wasn’t this time either.
Another proposal that ended up failing would be to discipline children’s last names in the event of a parent’s divorce. In China, it is customary to have only the father’s last name.
The idea would be to allow children to adopt the name of the one who had custody after the divorce – in practice, the mother, also because otherwise the rule would be pointless. But he won the argument that changing a last name would be complicated.
When it comes to family law, the balance is largely in favor of the Conservatives at the expense of the Reformists. Traditional and patriarchal values prevailed in the new code. And experience harmony and stability.
In this context, it seems almost a miracle to enforce the rules on sexual harassment. Under the new code, companies have an obligation to ensure a safe working environment and, most importantly, they can be held responsible in the event of harassment.
Called the Encyclopedia of Social Life, the Civil Code, in its 1,260 articles, also covers topics such as property, contracts and civil liability. Includes news regarding privacy and personal data protection.
The so-called encyclopedia is a victory for the current rulers of the country. Over the past decades, there have been four failed attempts to adopt a civil code.
It’s no surprise that the new code is being touted as a symbol of China’s legal modernization. To a large extent, it is. However, some who saw it as a missed opportunity find ways to get around their issues in creative ways.
Same-sex couples have taken advantage of a loophole in a law designed to protect the elderly and have started naming their partners as legal guardians. Thus, they mutually guarantee certain rights in the event of death or disability.
If the authorities seem to turn a blind eye to the new guardians, legal recognition of same-sex marriage would be too modern. In China, too, society is changing faster than the law. Here too, when this is the case, a route is sought.
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