Wednesday, December 27, 2000
Australian couples can now form legally
binding contracts spelling out details of their married life
A story published today in the Sydney Morning
Herald reports that a new law in Australia now gives couples the authority to enter into
binding contracts that will govern the details of their married life, including the number
of children they will have, who will do which chores, holiday destinations, and the type
of sex life they will have. Courts will be empowered to enforce these "Binding
Before the new laws came into force couples could draw up
agreements on the division of property and other assets, but they were not binding if
challenged in court.
With almost a third of Australian marriages ending in
divorce, and with asset-rich individuals marrying later in life, the new contract is
expected to be widely embraced, especially those marrying for a second time who feel they
have been burnt before.
A group known as Relationships Australia warned yesterday that such contracts could create
insecurity and conflict in a marriage, and could also disadvantage women.
"People are very frightened about the possibility of separating, and if they have to
talk about it early on, about who gets what, it could create problems," the clinical
director of Relationships Australia, Ms Kerrie James, said.
She said businessmen who had endured an expensive family law battle in their first
marriage were most likely to take out an agreement to protect their assets. But if divorce
occurred later, after the birth of children, the wife could lose assets but be stuck with
raising the children.
"You are making an arrangement for the future when you don't know what the future is
going to be," she said.
Bill Karras, a family law specialist in Double Bay for two decades, said he had already
had interest from a number of accountants and lawyers who were preparing to remarry but
wanted to protect their assets.
Single woman in China causes uproar with
request for artificial insemination
A story published today by the Washington Post News Service
reports that Coco Ye, a single woman living in China, has caused an uproar. She is
smart. She is well educated. She is successful and not unattractive.
But after six boyfriends left her, including one to whom she
was engaged, Coco Ye concluded that those were not the qualities Chinese men look for in a
wife. Heartbroken, she decided she did not need a husband.
But then Miss Ye, a 28-year-old Internet executive, realized that she wanted to have a
child. She saw an article about one of China's first sperm banks, which had a reputation
for treating married couples' infertility problems. And suddenly, it hit her: Artificial
insemination could solve her problems, and those of other lonely Chinese women, too.
According to the story, Ye's colleagues were stunned. Her friends were worried. Her
parents were distraught. But that was nothing compared with what happened after a reporter
in the provincial capital of Sichuan persuaded Ye to go public: Newspapers throughout the
country published her story, setting off a national discussion about what it means to be a
modern woman in China.
Newsrooms were flooded with phone calls and mail from women who saw Miss Ye as a pioneer,
men who considered her a threat to Chinese society and mothers who wanted to match her up
with their sons.
And then the government stepped in, dismissing Ye's plan by noting that in China, it is
not only taboo for a single woman to bear a child but also illegal.
"The law is clear: If a man and a woman do not marry, they can't have a child,"
said Cheng Shengli, spokesman for the State Family Planning Commission. "You have to
be a family, a couple, to have a child. In our traditional culture, we have strict rules
on sexual relations. The majority makes the law, and we must consider the majority's moral
view: You get married, you form a family, then you have children."
Ye has been in hiding since the initial article was published. But in a telephone
interview with the Post, granted on the condition that she be referred to only by the
Westernized name she uses with foreigners, she said China was changing faster than the law
"Many people think this is a bad idea, that it will be bad for the baby, but I have
the skills to give my child a good future," she said. "In China, people's
thinking is changing. It's not as traditional anymore. And it's not just me. I think many
normal Chinese women have had this idea."
The story says that hot-line services and hospitals in at least one city, Guangzhou, have
received many calls from single women requesting paperwork to apply for artificial
The commotion over Ye's proposal reflects unease about the rapid progress women have made
in a society that once practiced foot binding.
The revolution in 1949 sought to wipe out such customs and grant women the same rights as
men. More recently, changes have exposed China to Western ideas and presented women with
more choices and the possibility of financial independence.
But prosperity has also reduced the need for families to maintain two incomes and led many
men to demand that their wives should spend less time at jobs and more time at home.
The new economy in China has made bias against women easier. Now that employment is no
longer guaranteed, women say it is more difficult for them to get jobs than it is for men,
and easier for them to lose jobs. Some companies fire women if they get pregnant.
The institution of marriage is also under pressure. Parliament is debating legislation
devised to try to stop men from taking mistresses, an increasingly common practice. And
divorce has risen, up to 13 percent from 3 percent in the past two decades, with most of
the cases initiated by women.
A message on the Internet said: "We all know that many marriages are far from
perfect. We have seen many tragedies. Why should we object to Ye becoming a single mother
if that's what she wants? It may be against Chinese tradition, but I don't think it's
wrong as long as she takes responsibility for the child."
Another said: "A kid should never be born this way! Miss Ye should remember that God
created women for men. I am not kidding. If every woman had the same idea as her, men
would all be bachelors for
Chen Xingxing, a journalist who writes about women's issues and helps run a women's hot
line in Beijing, said the varying reactions to Miss Ye's case highlighted a gap in
attitudes between many women and the rest of Chinese society.
In particular, Chen said, young, educated women like Ye are coming of age with higher
expectations than ever before, expectations that often place them in conflict with the
more traditional overall society.
Thursday, December 21, 2000
Netherlands legalizes gay marriage
effective April 2001,
When the law takes effect next April, the wording of civil
codes will be brought into line by referring to "partners," rather than
The Netherlands will become the first nation in the world to put same-sex marriage on the
same par with male-female marriage.
Although several other countries register same-sex couples
under "registered partnership" laws or "civil solidarity pacts," the
Dutch law goes farther in eliminating references to gender. It also gives all couples
equal rights to adopt children after living together for three years and approval by a
Several years ago, the Netherlands passed a "registered partnership law"
allowing same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples to gain most of the same rights as
married couples. The new law takes the final step, giving all couples the option to
be married or to be registered partners.
Under the new law, registered couples can change their status
to married without further ceremony. Both will be considered parents if the other
biological parent relinquishes parental rights.
The legislation will affect some 20,000 Dutch children with
parents of the same sex. But the laws will not allow nonresident gay couples to marry in
the Netherlands or register adopted children here.
``As far as possible, homosexual marriage will have the same consequences as heterosexual
marriages,'' said the Justice Ministry in a statement Wednesday. ``The normal rules on
maintenance obligations will apply to same-sex marriages.''