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Jiangxi county tries to lower 'bride price'

By Zhao Ruinan in Nanchang | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-23 07:18

A county in Jiangxi province recently announced new rules to incentivize "zero and low bride prices", sparking heated debate on social media.

While experts said the initiative holds significance in combating exorbitant marriage practices, concerns about feasibility and overlooking family differences persist.

The practice of "bride prices", where the groom provides money or other gifts, such as gold or jewelry, to the bride and her family as a prerequisite for marriage, is widespread in China.

According to the new initiative, children of couples opting for zero or low bride prices in Chongyi county, Ganzhou, will be given priority in school enrollment in the county during preschool and compulsory education.

A low bride price is one that does not exceed 39,000 yuan ($5,400) in betrothal gifts or cash.

The new regulations have been given a one-year trial period.

Those taking advantage of them can also enjoy free entry to county-owned scenic spots, a complimentary health checkup within the first year, and free public bus rides within the county.

Chen Wenchao, assistant judge at Beijing's Chaoyang District People's Court, praised the move, seeing it as a refinement of the latest judicial interpretations and reflecting efforts to curb exorbitant bride prices and guide marriage customs.

A month ago, China's top court, the Supreme People's Court, clarified the scope of betrothal gifts, determined the circumstances in which they should be returned, and prohibited asking for money or other possessions in the name of gifts.

"In recent years, the issue of exorbitant bride prices has become prevalent in several areas, with some bride prices reaching exceptionally high amounts," Chen said.

"This trend needs to be curbed, and marriage customs require proper guidance."

Previously, cities like Yingtan in Jiangxi had issued guidelines stating that rural bride prices should not exceed 60,000 yuan. Fenyi county, in Xinyu, set the upper limit for rural bride prices at 69,000 yuan.

Local governments elsewhere have also made efforts to regulate high-priced bride prices. Ningling county in Henan province, one of the first national experimental zones for marriage custom reforms, has advocated they not exceed 30,000 yuan.

Four years ago, in Shandong province, Yangzhuang town in Yishui county set the standard at a maximum of 10,000 yuan. In May 2022, Liangshan prefecture in Sichuan province introduced regulations that capped them at 100,000 yuan.

Lan Wen, a political adviser from Jiangxi province, said bride prices are often tied to prestige issues, especially in low-income rural regions.

Rural families equate the amount with sincerity, personal prestige, or even the perceived value of their children, disregarding the financial capacity of the groom's family, she said.

Lan said that addressing the issue of exorbitant bride prices requires joint efforts, including tailored regulations, economic and societal development, protection of vulnerable groups and community interventions.

Chen, the judge from Beijing, said that the vast income disparities among regions and diverse forms of bride prices, ranging from cash to traditional gold jewelry, make it challenging to have a "one-size-fitsall" approach, and a simple fixed amount might not be effective.

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