Jiangsu to lift law on unmarried migrant couples

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 July, 2003, 12:00am

The Jiangsu government plans to revoke a law that makes it illegal for unmarried migrant couples to live together, in a move that has been hailed as a big step forward by human rights activists.

The provincial government has announced that it will cancel a section of a law that mandates that only married migrant couples can live together.

The law, which has been in force since 1994, orders landlords to ensure that couples have a marriage certificate before they can move into a property.

Officials said the law was introduced to curb prostitution but it was being revoked as there was no national law to support it.

'It is hard to define the scope of the law,' Sun Rulin, the province's director of legal affairs, told state media. 'Father and daughter, mother and son, brother and sister, could all technically come under the law. It would be ridiculous to prohibit them from living together.'

He added police found it impossible to implement the law. 'We can punish people who are involved in prostitution or drug dealing, but we should not prosecute people who are simply living together,' he said.

Although there is no national directive, the majority of provinces have regulations prohibiting unmarried migrant couples from living together.

Jiangsu is the first province to revoke the element of the migrant law that many people have called a violation of fundamental human rights.

In cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou, landlords are legally obliged to ensure only married migrant couples can rent their accommodation.

Shanghai is one of the few major cities that does not have such restrictions in force.

Xiang Yang, a lawyer from Beijing Zhongfu Law Office, said that the revoking of the law represented a 'big step forward' for human rights on the mainland.

'Individual rights must be protected,' he said. 'Any action that restricts the rights of an individual should be considered an infringement of their basic rights.'

He said once the law was revoked it would be legal for unmarried migrants to live together in Jiangsu. 'Anything not expressly prohibited by law is legal,' Mr Xiang said.

The lifting of the ban has been a hot topic on internet chat rooms in recent days, with the majority of people behind the decision to lift the restrictions.

A survey carried on the Sohu portal showed that 85 per cent supported the reform.