China’s new civil code requires that any “serious diseases” be disclosed before marriage
A Shanghai court on Monday annulled a marriage because a man had not told his partner that he was HIV-positive beforehand, becoming the first such case based on laws in China’s newly enacted civil code.
The Minhang District People’s Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, surnamed Li, who had sued to have her marriage annulled after her husband, surnamed Jiang, confessed to living with HIV for several years and taking medication to control the autoimmune disease.
According to the court, the couple married in June after Li became pregnant. Although Jiang had insisted that his disease was not contagious at the time and the possibility of transmitting the virus to Li and their baby was low, she opted to terminate the pregnancy and sue for an annulment. Li has not become infected from living with her husband.
Under China’s civil code, if a person conceals a “serious disease” before marriage, their spouse has the right to seek an annulment by going to court.
Although the civil code doesn’t specify which diseases should be considered “serious,” courts may rule on a case-by-case basis, and the plaintiff is entitled to seek compensation for psychological trauma, Zhang Huan’e, a lawyer with Shanghai Landing Law Offices, told Sixth Tone.
The new legal provision gives people more options, she said. Prior to the civil code, people in such situations would typically seek divorce, which irrevocably alters one’s official marital status, in addition to being more time- and resource-consuming than an annulment. “The law also highlights the importance of respecting and protecting the right to choice of both parties in a marriage,” the lawyer said.
The Minhang District court’s ruling has raised heated discussion on microblogging platform Weibo, where a related hashtag had been viewed more than 760 million times by Tuesday afternoon. Many online have also stressed the importance of getting premarital health checks, which have not been compulsory for couples seeking to get married since 2003.
In December, authorities in the southwestern Yunnan province issued a new regulation pertaining to HIV status disclosures. The rule, set to come into effect in March, will require people undergoing health checks to notify their partners if they test positive for HIV. Should they refuse, medical staff will be authorized to intervene.