There is immense pressure for young women in China to get married. Ou Xiaobai, a 32-year-old gay woman living in Beijing, entered into a sham marriage with a gay man to keep her family happy.
Ou told BBC: “At that time I was living a happy life with my girlfriend in Beijing. But I was under constant pressure from my family – who lived in Dalian – to get married… My parents kept asking me if I was seeing anyone. And the situation got worse after my father passed away… Realising there was no way that I could avoid the issue, I went to my friends for help – and that’s how I got to know about ‘marriages of convenience’.”
Ou met her husband who has a boyfriend for many years. At their wedding, Ou’s girlfriend played an active role- she was her bridesmaid, make-up artist and wedding dress consultant.
At the start of the marriage, Ou and her husband would put in effort to portray the image of a happily married couple. For instance, they would visit their respective families together. Gradually, after their family and friends trust that they have settled down, Ou and her husband rarely acted like a real couple.
Ou continues to live with her girlfriend while her husband lives with his boyfriend. Interestingly, all 4 parties have become good friends.
Ou recently started a social media platform known as “iHomo”. In just 1 year, Ou has helped to form 100 marriages of convenience just like hers.
Ou believes that the Chinese society will gradually become more accomodating towards the LGBT group. Ou aspires to help society understand what being LGBT means. She sees sham marriages like hers as a practical way to ease daily conflicts.
See: Natalia Zuo and Oana Marocico, 100 Women 2016: My sham marriage, BBC, 27 November 2016
Peculiar as the case may be, I have actually come across similar examples of such cases in Singapore. Unlike Ou’s case where the marriage is an outright sham, the cases I have dealt with in Singapore usually involve a straight party and a gay party. They usually end up filing for annulment in Singapore.
Marriage between gay and straight person in Singapore
The straight spouse would marry the gay spouse out of love. After solemnization of the marriage, the gay spouse would refuse to consummate the marriage, giving weak excuses. The straight spouse would discover that the gay spouse is gay. It is difficult trying to conceal one’s sexual orientation. The straight spouse would then end up having to file for annulment in Singapore, on the basis that the gay spouse refuses to consummate the marriage.
See: Sections 104 to 111 of Women’s Charter (Singapore)
Most nullity cases in Singapore are filed on the basis that one party wilfully refuses to consummate the marriage with the other. Despite Singapore being a small country, there is a high rate of annulment in Singapore.
My guess is that the gay spouses who get married in Singapore probably do so out of peer and familial pressure like Ou. However, if they get married to someone who is straight, chances are they will end up hurting somebody. A marriage of convenience may just turn out to be very inconvenient!
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