Decoupling: Gender Injustice in China's Divorce Courts


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  • Ethan Michelson
Decoupling: Gender Injustice in China's Divorce Courts event image

Using 'big data' computational techniques to scrutinize cases covering 2009–2016 from all 252 basic-level courts in two Chinese provinces, Henan and Zhejiang, Ethan Michelson reveals that women have borne the brunt of a dramatic intensification since the mid-2000s of a decades-long practice of denying divorce requests. This talk discusses key findings from his new book of the same name. Michelson's analysis of almost 150,000 divorce trials reveals routine and egregious violations of China's own laws upholding the freedom of divorce, gender equality, and the protection of women's physical security. Michelson takes the reader upstream to the institutional sources of China's clampdown on divorce and downstream to its devastating and highly gendered human toll, showing how judges in an overburdened court system clear their oppressive dockets at the expense of women's lawful rights and interests.

Portrait of Ethan Michelson
Ethan Michelson is the James and Noriko Gines Department Chair in East Asian Languages and Cultures as well as Professor of Sociology and Law at Indiana University Bloomington, where he has been teaching courses on law and society, law and authoritarianism, and contemporary Chinese society since 2003. He has won several awards for his published research on China’s legal system.