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A “Phoenix” rising from the ashes: China’s Tongqi, marriage fraud, and resistance

British Journal of Sociology

Published online on

Abstract

["The British Journal of Sociology, EarlyView. ", "\nAbstract\nThere are significant numbers of women in China who have inadvertently married closeted gay men. Women in China who unwittingly marry closeted gay men are known as Tongqi (同妻), and these women often discover their husband's secret only after giving birth to fulfill filial obligations. These women taken into this “marriage fraud” are initially unaware of their husbands’ sexual orientation. Because China's divorce law favors men, even if the wife files for divorce, the husband often wins custody of children. The tendency to blame the woman who have unwittingly married gay men extends even to the woman's own immediate families. These women suffer heightened risk of not only physical death from AIDS and other diseases, but also psychological death through the loss of physical mobility, alienation of kin, and death of their heterosexual marriage identity. This article extends necropolitics to the social death situations of 12 educated and 47 low‐educated Tongqi and reveals how they resist and overcome their circumstances. Tongqi are the women who have unwittingly married gay men of violations involving their own marriage, but they are not simply waiting for death. Taking an ethnographical approach, this work uses the social death concept of necropolitics to provide understanding of how marriage and gender laws perpetuate these dysfunctional unions.\n"]