Chinese city caps ‘bride price’ at $7,450 to reduce wedding pressure

05-Feb-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The “bride price” or betrothal gifts given to a woman’s family has gone up so much amid China’s huge gender imbalance that a city government has decided to step in.

Authorities in Puyang, in central Henan province, issued new guidelines on the practice this week, saying they aimed to “curb the high cost of betrothal gifts and change the custom”.

The average bride price in the city had reached 139,100 yuan (US$20,740), according to a survey by news aggregator Yidian Zixun last year.

Now, the value of gifts usually money or property given by a groom and his family to the bride’s parents has been capped at 60,000 yuan for rural areas and 50,000 yuan for urban areas.

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In Puyang, the average annual disposable income was estimated at 18,197 yuan in 2017.

For party officials in rural areas, a 30,000 yuan limit has been set for betrothal gifts, while it is set at 20,000 yuan for urban government employees.

The guidelines also advise families in the city to keep their wedding banquets to a maximum of 15 tables. Food costs should be kept under 300 yuan per table in rural areas and 600 yuan in urban areas, while cigarettes should cost 30 yuan a pack or less and they should spend no more than 60 yuan on a bottle of wine.

“Those who continue to accept expensive betrothal gifts will be publicly named and the authorities will crack down on them,” the guidelines say, without elaborating.

The Puyang government said the high bride price had put families under enormous financial strain and it vowed to “achieve some results” by 2020.

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The bride price is a part of Chinese marriage customs but it has become more expensive in recent years, especially in rural areas where the skewed gender ratio has left millions of men struggling to find a wife.

Until it was abolished in 2015, China’s decades-long “one-child policy” only reinforced a traditional preference for boys, leading to millions of girls being aborted or abandoned. According to a National Bureau of Statistics survey of unmarried people aged over 15 in 2017, there were 4,625 males to 3,060 females in China or a male-female ratio of 1.5.

There were 42 million more men than women in the country that year, according to the World Bank.

The rising bride price has not helped the situation for unmarried men. In Tangyin, Henan province, an argument over the betrothal gift ended with a groom killing his bride with a hammer on their wedding night in 2017. The groom’s family had racked up debts of nearly 300,000 yuan to pay the 110,000 yuan bride price and to cover the cost of the wedding banquet.

In other cities and counties, the authorities have already taken action. Last year, a community neighbourhood committee in Lankao county, also in Henan, capped the bride price at 20,000 yuan, saying people who paid or received more than that would be reported to the police for human trafficking.

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On social media, some were surprised by the Puyang government’s move.

“Some might feel that this is the family selling their daughter, but actually it’s not. They just use the betrothal gifts to pay for their son’s marriage,” one person wrote on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

Others applauded the government for intervening, but some pointed out that there was a much bigger problem.

“Why avoid the issue that the difficulty around getting married is caused by the fact there are fewer women than men? What’s the use in limiting the bride price?” asked one person.

Another said: “This is a regulation that has zero possibility of being carried out.”


Category: China

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