Divorce, Marriage and What it Means to be Gay in China

In China, the institution of marriage is highly revered. While same-sex unions remain illegal, social norms often pressure homosexuals into wedlock against their sexual preference. This can lead to serious domestic problems, a drastic example being 31-year-old Luo Hongling, who committed suicide last year upon discovering that her new husband was gay (her family’s lawsuit against the gay husband for fraud was rejected by a Chengdu court last month). An article from Bloomberg cites other examples of women married to homosexual men, noting that it is not an isolated occurrence:

[…]According to one widely cited estimate, 16 million Chinese women are married to gay men, most of them unwittingly so and with few legal protections or guarantees if they decide to get out.

Whether or not the statistics are accurate, there’s little question that this is a real phenomenon — and one not new to China. Straight women married to gay men have long been known as“tongqi,” and the state-owned news media have covered their problems for at least a decade.

In recent weeks, the topic has become particularly popular on China’s blogs, microblogs and newspaper editorial pages after the Beijing Intermediate People’s Court, one of China’s most influential judicial bodies, issued a Jan. 10 report and recommendations on how to handle the growing flood of so-called fake marriage cases. […]

Caixin has more on the findings of Beijing Intermediate People’s Court’s recent study:

Beijing’s First Intermediate People’s Court says case studies reveal a range of problems with divorces that involve a homosexual spouse.For one, since 1990 gays and lesbians are no longer considered psychiatric patients by the World Health Organization. Therefore, homosexuality is not grounds for prohibiting them from getting married in the first place.

Another question is whether the heterosexual marriage of a gay man or lesbian can be revoked or declared null and void at the other party’s request. The court says that if the marriage is declared invalid it will not in fact necessarily protect a spouse’s rights and interests.

Also problematic was whether homosexuality is sufficient reason for divorce. The court holds that “the alienation of mutual affection” should still be the standard of judgment.

Additionally, compensation to spouse should not be supported because it lacks a legal basis.

Finally, whether the heterosexual spouse is entitled to a bigger share of the couple’s assets in case of divorce was an open question. The court said that since wives are identified as “unerring parties,” the partition of property might favor them.

China Real Time Report editor Josh Chin speaks further about Beijing Intermediate People’s Court’s proposal with The Wall Street Journal’s Deborah Kan, also talking more broadly about the social acceptance of homosexuality in China and ceremonial gay marriages:

As Josh Chin mentioned above, a homosexuality is more likely to be condemned by family members than by the larger Chinese public. South China Morning Post reports on a gay wedding ceremony last week in Beijing that was disrupted by family:

An elderly gay couple went ahead with their wedding ceremony at a Beijing restaurant on Wednesday despite family opposition.

Photos uploaded onto their microblog late on Wednesday night showed the couple, one in a black tuxedo and the other in strapless wedding gown, being blessed by about 25 guests.

One said he was a retired teacher and his partner was a migrant working in Beijing. He did not disclose details such as their names, ages, previous marital status or how they met.

He updated the couple’s microblog with a countdown to the banquet and had planned to broadcast the ceremony via V6.cn a mainland-based video-sharing site, on Wednesday afternoon, but the service was disrupted by his son, who scared off guests by knocking over tables at the restaurant.

“How come we had the blessings from other people but not from my own son?” he asked.

For more on divorce, gay marriage, gay rights, homosexuality or tongqi (aka “homowives”), see prior CDT coverage.

February 1, 2013 7:04 PM
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Categories: Human Rights, Law, Society