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In April 2001, the Standing Committee of the Ninth National People's Congress (NPC), China's highest legislative body, passed the long-debated and much awaited amendments to the Marriage Law on the closing day of its twenty-first session. As stated by one PRC commentator, "In the 50 years since the founding of the New China, there has not been any law that has caused such a widespread concern for ordinary people."'

Even though the recent revisions to the marriage laws have been hailed as some of the most significant and positive changes in family law in China, thus far no empirical evaluation of the laws' effectiveness in actual practice has been conducted. Our article raises some questions as to the practical effect these revisions will have on women's rights.

We maintain that while the revisions were intended to promote a more equitable system of property distribution for women at divorce and to address violence against women in the family, in reality, women will face major drawbacks in the implementation of these provisions of the law. Unless the gaps in the law and certain obstacles to the implementation of these laws are addressed, the revisions will remain largely symbolic. In our conclusion, we suggest recommendations that will help bring the Marriage Law in compliance with the international standards set out in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), as well as help deliver on the promise of the revisions to the Marriage Law.


Chinese family law, women's equality, sex discrimination, divorce, property rights, domestic violence, enforcement

Publication Title

Texas Journal of Women & Law

Publication Citation

13 Tex. J. Women & L. 251 (2004)