Pursuing Rights and Getting Justice on China's Ethnic Frontier, 1949-1966

By Diamant, Neil J. | Law & Society Review, January 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

Pursuing Rights and Getting Justice on China's Ethnic Frontier, 1949-1966


Diamant, Neil J., Law & Society Review


This article explains how minority women in rural China managed to use state legal and political institutions to obtain a divorce, despite numerous obstacles. Beginning with a legal controversy over why women from the Yi minority were going to court for "fun" and then divorcing their husbands, I proceed to look at the many factors that may have contributed to divorce in rural China, such as state ethnic policy, generational empowerment, culture, and the role of community in mediation and collective action. While such factors were influential, I argue that women's divorce in Yunnan was largely the result of a particular, time-bound confluence of revolutionary political forces that were unique to China, and not the direct product of the law or ethnic culture and status.

A Legal Controversy in Rural China, 1956

It seemed like just another ordinary fall day in a village of the Yi minority community in Yunnan Province, on China's southwestern border. As the sun rose over the glistening fields, families woke up and began their chores. Sometime later, their tasks completed, several young women, laden with recently harvested produce, met in the village square to go to the market town, as was their custom and duty. This was not an easy trip: Yunnan was a poor, mountainous province with few paved roads, railways, or motorized transport.

After walking for several hours, they arrived at their destination. The market town, located in a valley, was bustling with peasants who had streamed down from mountain villages. The sounds and smells of donkeys, goats, squealing pigs, and terrified chickens filled the air as the women took up their positions on the roadside to hawk their produce. By early afternoon they were finished. Their responsibility fulfilled, and with some free time on their hands before their return trip, the women decided to wander a bit. Passing through the town's main thoroughfare, they saw the gated building of the county's political administration. Nearby was the court. Noticing a crowd gathered inside, the women decided to see what was going on. This activity, a cultural practice known as kan renao, or "getting in on the fun," was not entirely novel, as rural folk in the area (as well as in others) had been known to "gather around" any event that broke the monotony of life and promised free entertainment for a while (Perry 1993). On this particular occasion, the Yi women were witnessing several divorce cases. Taking in this scene, some of the Yi women who had come to town to market their produce decided that they, too, wanted a divorce. They approached the clerk and the judge and demanded a divorce on the basis of the People's Republic of China's 1950 "Marriage Law," which allowed divorces if marriages were "arranged" or "coerced" by parents or other members of the community. The Yi women testified that indeed their marriages had been coerced, and this gave them the right to divorce

The court granted their requests, despite the fact that their husbands were not present in court. Their divorce papers in one hand and the money they received from selling their produce in the other, they made their way back to their village. Upon arrival, they presented their husbands with the divorce papers. Aghast that their wives had divorced them, the aggrieved husbands marched off to complain to their local officials. The local officials were also incensed, and worried that if village women could divorce so easily, soon the village would be left without any young marriageable women. The courts, they complained, decided cases in a "rash and careless" manner. This problem was compounded, they argued, because the Yi minority is particularly litigious and prone to divorce. Courts, however, were not convinced that this was correct, and proposed a political explanation instead: Yi women were divorcing because their "consciousness had been raised." A court also noticed that "the more we intervene, the more divorces there are" (CXA 16-27-A1:2). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Pursuing Rights and Getting Justice on China's Ethnic Frontier, 1949-1966
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.