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Young rural teens who marry are following customs but breaking the law

作者:admin 2020-12-01

Young rural teens who marry are following customs but breaking the law

Photo: Screenshot of online video


Festive red candles were burning, while lavish dishes were set out on the table. Typical of a Chinese wedding reception except the “newlyweds” were
children, far too young to marry according to Chinese regulations. 

A video showing the 17-year-old high school boy being betrothed to a 13-year-old junior high school girl sparked heated debate on the internet. A matrimonial lawyer told the Global Times that marriages of minors is a serious illegal problem.

According to the Municipality of Guiyu county in Shantou, South China’s Guangdong Province, the young couple were both under the legal age for marriage. 

Their wedding ceremony was held according to rural customs on November 26, but they didn’t apply for marriage certificate from the civil affairs department. The boy and the girl have dropped out of school. The girl’s parents are likely breaking the compulsory education law by allowing the daughter to leave school. 
 
The incident spark heated discussion on Chinese social media Sina Weibo. Many netizens said they felt sorry for the 13-year-old girl, saying backward marriage customs and attitudes in rural areas have robbed her of opportunities for learning and put her at risk of abuse.

Local authorities have required the boy’s parents to return the girl to her family.

Zhang Jing, a Beijing-based marriage lawyer told the Global Times that both sets of parents were breaking the law as the “bride” is under the age of 14. According to the Minor Protection Law, her parents or other guardians cannot permit or force her to marry or enter into a marriage contract.

According to the sixth national population census in China in 2010, the rate of early marriage in rural areas reached 25.36 percent for men and 17.12 percent for women, 2.8 times and 3.3 times that of urban areas respectively. And the difference is more pronounced at younger ages. At the age of 15, rural boys were 10 times and rural girl 8.5 times more likely to marry than their urban counterparts.

“Low education and lack of knowledge of the law in rural areas are still [holding back] China's grassroots development,” Zhang said, noting that the traditional concept of early marriage remains popular in rural areas. 

A number of teenagers caused online controversy by posting videos of their early marriages and their babies. Young rural mothers between 14 and 17, posted videos during their pregnancy or interactions with their infants on video platforms such as Kuaishou App and huoshan.com. They claimed to “the youngest mothers on the whole network,” before the video platforms were ordered to take down such posts by minors.

“Although these web celebrities show off their happiness in front of camera, and even think getting pregnant before they marry is an ‘honor,’ they are physically and psychologically immature, unable to complete their studies, and have no source of income. Such marriages aren’t protected by law,” Zhang said.


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