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12 Spousal Abuse: Divorce Litigation and the Emergence of Rights Consciousness in Republican China

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Chapter Summary

This chapter investigates the interaction between the Republican Civil Code and legal practice in order to evaluate the law's social impact, extending research on the law's impact to changes in individual consciousness. It illuminates how litigants grounded their understandings of rights in light of socioeconomic realities, everyday experiences of injustice, and grievances against family tyranny, wittingly or not within the frame supplied by liberal modernity. The rights consciousness revealed in the legal actions taken in the 1930s and 1940s suggests an approach to understanding rights in China that focuses on the way ordinary individuals deployed rights to promote their interests, rather than the debates among intellectuals and politicians over the meaning of rights. The legislature stated in Article 1052-3 and -4 that either spouse could sue for divorce in case of "such ill-treatment from the other spouse as to render it intolerable to live together".

Keywords: Article 1052; divorce; family tyranny; litigants; Republican China; Republican Civil Code; rights consciousness; spouse



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