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International News Archive
December 21 -  December 27, 2000


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This page contains news for the period December 21, 2000 through December 27, 2000.


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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 Financial Agreements."

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 was.

"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 insemination.

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,

female_chrome_md_wht.gif (3113 bytes)A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Dutch parliament will begin sifting through laws to expunge phrases such as "father and mother" and "man and woman" after legalizing marriage and adoption by homosexuals.

male_chrome_md_wht.gif (4217 bytes)Two bills extending equal marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples won endorsement by the upper house Tuesday.  The marriage law was adopted by a vote of 49 to 26, while the draft on adoption rights was approved by 47 votes to 28. The lower house passed the bills Sept. 12 by a vote of 109-33.

When the law takes effect next April, the wording of civil codes will be brought into line by referring to "partners," rather than male-female pairs.

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 court.

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.''

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