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China lifts 50-year ban on student marriages
Updated: 2005-03-31 14:40

China said it would lift from September a 50-year ban on college students marrying or bearing children but warned the relaxed regulations should not change academic priorities.

Students of legal marriage age -- 22 for males and 20 for females -- will no longer need to seek approval from university officials to tie the knot, the Ministry of Education said on its website.

For decades students contemplating marriage or who become pregnant have faced the dilemma of whether to give up studying or delay their wedding, or stay in school and have an abortion.

Third-year student of Tianjin Normal University Wang Yang (L) and Liu Hang who works in Tianjin get married May 1, 2004. Wang is reportedly the first college student who ties knot in the city. [newsphoto] 

The regulation came under particularly strong criticism from graduate students, many of whom, under the threat of expulsion, were forced to hold off on reciting marriage vows or starting families.

The new rule follows a law enacted in 2003 that abolished the need for engaged couples to request from employers or superiors a certificate of approval to wed.

Until recent years, Chinese remained beholden to the state for the most basic needs such as provisions for housing, a child's education or the right to get hitched.

But since China began reforming its economy in the late 1970s, the cradle to grave existence, known as the "iron rice bowl", has been largely phased out.

Chinese today are mostly free to make their own work and social choices, although the Ministry of Education made it clear that the relaxation was not meant to change overall attitudes and habits.

"College students should handle properly the issues of studies, marriage and family. They aren't financially prepared yet for marriage," Sun Xiaobing, an official with the ministry was quoted as saying by the Shanghai Daily.

China views higher education as crucial but universities still treat students as children, requiring them to return to dorms by curfews, while discouraging dating and sex.

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