Sexual Imbalance and the Marriage Squeeze (part seven)
Along with almost everything else, divorce has boomed during the reform era. In 1982, toward the beginning of the reform period, according to official figures only about 100,000 couples divorced an extraordinarily tiny number in view of China’s huge population. But by 1986 that figure had jumped to 500,000, and by 1996 it had jumped sti17y gain to over l million. Furthermore, most divorces-around 70% according to some estimates-are initiated by women. Nowadays, it is obvious that a great many women are not at all hesitant about standing up for their rights. For instance, in 1995 a young rural couple had the woman’s dowry notarized just before their wed- ding. Two years later, the women sued her husband for abuse-he had beaten her and she ended up in the hospital for 10 days. Based on the notarized documents, the court calculated the value of the prenuptial property, and ordered the husband to pay the woman for her medical expenses. The woman explained: “I asked my husband to have all our property notarized before we got married. He initially disagreed, but I persuaded him… I wanted the court proceeding to help him fully realize his mistake.” Another young woman, a factory worker, talking about the man she chose to marry, explained: “I was looking for someone who was not going to be as strong as me, because, you know, I have a pretty fierce character… I’m not good at admitting when I’m wrong, even though I am wrong sometimes. So I needed someone who wasn’t as fierce as me.” It is high time that the image of the women of China as cowed, passive, and timid creatures-which was never quite accurate in any case-be consigned to the dustbin.