By Alex Taggart
Li Yinhe’s latest blog post is about her position on the introduction of rules at Chongqing Normal University and Southwest Normal University that ban students from having one-night stands and being mistresses, an issue that has provoked a debate on sexual freedom, human rights, and the involvement of the authorities in people’s private lives. She argues that whilst from a legal standpoint people’s extra-marital affairs are their own dirty business, Chinese people should use the power of shame to prevent people from having affairs.
Recently, a certain university learned that a female student was a mistress, and planned to take disciplinary action, provoking much debate.
If a female student becomes someone’s mistress, it is certainly wrong on a moral level. Even if she is not a mistress, and just a normal lover, it’s still morally wrong, because she has ruined someone else’s family and marriage. This is essentially different to her having a relationship with and living with a single person; pre-marital cohabitation may contravene normal societal conventions, but on a moral level, it is not much of a problem.
The question is whether or not the university should take disciplinary action. The issue of how to deal with the violation of marital morality has been a focal point of debate in recent decades. Before Reform and Opening, extra-marital sex was punished quite severely, with administrative demerits and punishments that would [negatively] affect promotions and pay rises. It is said that during the Cultural Revolution there existed the crime of ‘breaking a family’, which specifically punished extra-marital sex. Since Reform and Opening, this crime no longer exists, work units no longer control the private lives of their workers, and the administrative punishment of this sort of immoral behaviour is no longer carried out. In 2000, when marriage law was amended, there were still those who strongly advocated the use of judicial powers to control extra-marital sex, but after the issue was debated in legal and social scientific circles, they ultimately abandoned this attempt. One reason for this was that studies conducted in Western countries showed an extra-marital sex rate of around 40 per cent. The proportion of extra-marital sex in China was a little lower, but it was still at roughly 16 per cent. If the target of a law renders 16 per cent of the population guilty, then even if it does become legislation, it will exist in name only; there is not enough police power to investigate these kinds of cases and to carry out this kind of punishment
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