A province in central China is aiming to protect the elderly’s right to seek partners during the twilight years.
A draft law in Hubei proposes measures to protect senior residents’ freedom to marry whomever they choose, state newspaper Legal Daily reported on Monday. The law, which is currently under review, would forbid dependents and other relatives of the elderly from obstructing marital unions or confiscating their property certificates in the event of divorce or remarriage.
Unlike similar legislation in other parts of China, Hubei’s draft law specifies punishment provisions for violators, who will be subject to criticism and education from their work units, village committees, or neighborhood committees — and in some cases, even handled by police.
Though young adults in China are under familial and social pressure to marry early, finding love late in life is far less common. And while parents invest much of their time and energy in finding the right spouse for their offspring, the reverse is not true when it comes to matchmaking for single parents.
In many cases, children resent the idea of their elderly parents finding a new partner — even though it could mitigate the burden of nursing their aging parents alone. One common reason for the opposition is financial: Late marriages often lead to inheritance disputes between relatives of the deceased and the new spouse, as Chinese marriage law dictates that the spouse is entitled to a share of the money.
China’s population is aging rapidly, and more than 43 million people over the age of 65 are widowed, divorced, or unmarried. An estimated 80 percent of elderly singles harbor hopes of remarriage, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Regulations similar to the Hubei draft law already exist or are being considered in other parts of the country: Shandong province in eastern China enacted its own version of the elderly protection legislation in 2014. In May, southwestern China’s Yunnan province posted a draft law online for public review, stating that elderly people’s freedom to marry and life after remarriage do not interfere with their children’s lives.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Two seniors holding flowers talk to each other during a blind dating event in Shenyang, Liaoning province, Dec. 17, 2013. VCG)