Lin Fang (pseudonym) had made up her mind that when her second daughter got married, she would also “find a solution.”
Once a thought takes root in the mind, it never goes away. It was in 2014 when Lin Fang’s eldest daughter got married. Lin Fang was 50 years old, and her two daughters were 24 and 19 years old, respectively.
Lin Fang’s family lived in the Huanning County Urban Community in Yuxi City, Yunnan Province, a typical urban village. Here, families with only two daughters are referred to as “double-daughter households.” Once the daughters get married, they have to move out of the household register and lose their membership in the collective economic organization. This means losing the annual dividends and also losing access to the best public schools in the county.
Many families have tried to fight for the rights of their married daughters. Some continuously filed complaints, but the issues were often pushed back to the community, stating that the “local village rules and regulations” apply. Some resorted to the courts, but most cases ended in pre-trial mediation. There were also younger brothers who stood up for their sisters, even entering the County People’s Congress meeting on their behalf.
Lin Fang’s second daughter got married in 2020, but she successfully maintained her membership in the collective economic organization.
This was not the result of Lin Fang “finding a solution.” The year before, the Urban Community revised the village rules and regulations that had been in place for over twenty years. According to the new regulations, whether the daughter moves out of the household register after marriage is a personal choice. If she chooses not to move out, she can retain her membership in the collective economic organization. Similar revisions also include granting eligibility through household relocation for “son-in-law” marriages.
In more common expressions, these women are referred to as “married-out daughters.” The term itself carries bias when used to express dissatisfaction with their experiences: How can a daughter be pushed out of her native family and become an outsider simply because she has entered a marriage?
Beijing lawyer Lin Lixia has been concerned about rural women’s land rights and collective income distribution issues since 2004. In her memory, the Urban Community is currently the only community that spontaneously revised the village rules and regulations from within to protect the collective economic rights of married women.
In addition to collective economic rights, gender issues also exist in various aspects of rural life. For example, married daughters and divorced women face unfair treatment regarding homestead land and land rights, as well as discrimination in traditional ceremonies such as worship. The revised village rules and regulations provide them with the necessary protection.
The revision that began and ended with the village rules and regulations put an end to the long-standing disputes. For a long time, disputes over women’s rights caused by marriage occurred in almost every village. This story from the Urban Community offers a rare and possibly difficult-to-replicate example of positive interaction.