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    Shanxi Court Sentences Man to 3 Years for Raping Fiancée

    The case has garnered significant public interest, sparking widespread debate on social media over multiple issues including marriage, consent, and bride prices.

    A local court in China’s northern Shanxi province has sentenced a man to three years in prison for raping his fiancée, in a verdict that has sparked widespread debate over consent in relationships. 

    The Yanggao County People’s Court ruled on Dec. 25 that the woman was forced into sexual intercourse on May 2, just a day after her engagement to the defendant, surnamed Xi. According to the judgment published Monday, the court’s decision was based on findings from a local police investigation, which determined Xi’s actions constituted rape.

    Speaking to domestic media after the verdict, the chief judge of the case stated that the woman and Xi were introduced to each other by a marriage agency, and had been dating since Jan. 30, 2023. During their relationship, the woman had explicitly expressed her opposition to premarital sex. 

    Despite this, after their engagement ceremony on May 1, Xi disregarded her objections and forced her into sexual intercourse the following day. Overwhelmed by emotion, the victim subsequently set fire to bedroom furniture and living room curtains. 

    The court found that she also attempted to escape Xi’s apartment and call for help but Xi forcibly dragged her back in and took away her phone. According to the court, it was only after the victim’s mother called later that night that she regained access to her phone and reported the incident to the police. 

    The chief judge stated that investigators collected evidence, including burn marks and bruises on the victim’s body from being dragged, along with video footage from the apartment’s staircase. 

    And while noting that the two families attempted to negotiate a marriage after the incident, the court maintained that these negotiations did not alter the conclusion that Xi had committed rape. 

    Under Chinese criminal law, rape is punishable by fixed-term imprisonment of no less than three years and up to 10 years, with provisions for more severe punishment under certain circumstances.

    Considering that the victim and Xi were in a relationship, and that the latter cooperated with the police investigation, the court opted for a comparatively lenient sentence. 

    The defendant’s mother, surnamed Zhen, told China Newsweek that she does not believe her son committed rape. She stated that the incident occurred on the day the bride price was discussed, a traditional Chinese marriage custom increasingly criticized for its high costs.

    “The woman demanded that my son include her name on his property deed and pay her 100,000 yuan ($13,993) as a bride price for marriage,” Zhen claimed. “We didn’t have that amount or the property at that time, leading her to become emotional and accuse my son of rape.”

    She also stated that her son has filed an appeal.

    The case has garnered significant public interest, sparking widespread debate on social media over multiple issues including marriage, consent, betrothal gifts, and bride prices. 

    Speaking to Sixth Tone, Ye Mingyi, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics specializing in family law, noted that the case was widely discussed due to its unique combination of elements. 

    “It has many aspects. It involves both rape and an engagement, as well as a betrothal gift. So when these elements are combined, it has piqued the interest and attention of netizens,” he said.  

    Online reactions to the verdict were mixed. While many voiced support for the victim and praised the court’s decision as a step forward for women’s rights, others speculated on the case’s details. Rumors ranged from allegations of “marriage fraud” and accusations of the woman blackmailing Xi, to claims that she delayed reporting the incident for four days.

    Following the verdict, Yanggao County officials emphasized that the rumors were baseless. “It has been verified by relevant authorities that the defendant and victim did not legally register their marriage with the civil affairs department, and their engagement was a customary practice rather than a legally recognized union,” read an official statement. 

    “Internet rumors suggesting they lived together, the victim’s prior marriage, and allegations of extortion have all been discredited. The public is urged to maintain a respectful online environment, honor personal privacy, and protect citizens’ legal rights,” the statement added. 

    Editor: Apurva. 

    (Header image: VCG)