Chinese wedding pranks are no excuse for sexual harassment

By Huang Lanlan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/20 18:48:39

An embarrassing scene happened at a wedding ceremony in February in East China's Jiangsu Province. The bridegroom's father embraced his new daughter-in-law and forcibly kissed her lips on stage. Instead of stopping him, many guests applauded and laughed. A video clip capturing the scene soon sparked outrage online. "Disgusting," one netizen wrote. "What on earth were they thinking? That was sexual harassment!"

The father-in-law, surnamed Bian, later hired a lawyer to whitewash his improper behavior. "As a kind of local wedding tradition, teasing the bride is fine to many," the lawyer's letter explains. "Bian 'kissed' his daughter-in-law to please the guests and enliven the atmosphere."

Though puzzlingly, wedding pranks like this are actually very popular in China. A survey conducted by China Youth Daily in November 2014 showed that 79.2 percent of the 21,155 interviewees had similar wedding-pranking experiences.

A report by Shanghai Observer in February 2018 pointed out that wedding pranks tend to happen in smaller cities and relatively less developed areas; few takes place in Beijing or Shanghai.

Hunnao, or wedding prank, is a controversial tradition that has long existed in this country. Although many believe that teasing a new couple and their attendants is a way of expressing good wishes, such pranks have gone too far. Now they also beat them, tie them up, strip off their clothes or throw them into water - all are common scenes at Chinese wedding ceremonies, bringing more trouble than wishes to the newlyweds.

Notably, women - brides and bridesmaids alike - are the biggest victims of bridal hazing.

In December of 2016, unruly male guests stripped a bride in front of her own husband. In the one-minute video, the bride, sitting on the bed beside the groom, was wearing a red bra and red panties while a group of men tried to peel them off, Daily Mail reported in October 2016.

Similarly, a video clip in June 2017 showed that two men sexually assaulted a bridesmaid during a wedding ceremony in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province. In the video, the two are seen groping the bridesmaid in a wedding motorcade despite her fierce resistance. "Take off her underwear!" one can be heard saying. They were detained by local police after the incident went viral, reported in June 2017.

The tradition of hunnao comes from ancient China, when most marriages were the result of matchmaking. In olden days, a new couple might not meet for the first time until their wedding ceremony. Therefore, hunnao was widely accepted as a sort of ice-breaking game to let the bride and groom feel comfortable.

Though the original intent of hunnao was not evil, in the feudal age it tended to become vulgar and unscrupulous. It is said in some areas in ancient times, a man would invite his father to spend the first night in bed with his new bride to express his filial piety. Likewise, tenant farmers tended to send newly married women to their landlords on the first night after their wedding as a way of showing obedience.

In these circumstances, hunnao became a ridiculous farce of "grabbing the bride's virginity from her husband." It objectified females, treating women as personal belongings. It was sexist and against basic human rights.

Nowadays, the terrible "grabbing bride" tradition has been eliminated, but uncivilized hunnao behavior still exists. It is sad that some people in today's China - where most people enjoys rapid economic growth, higher living standards and better education - still behave like barbarians. In the name of "following traditional customs," well-dressed yet ill-mannered male guests openly assault women, then receiving applause and whistles rather than punishment and jail time.

Weddings should be a happy experience. I hope that one day we can thoroughly abandon these nasty, feudalistic, sexist bridal hazing customs and turn Chinese wedding ceremonies from a couple's nightmare to a sweet memory.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT


Posted in: TWOCENTS

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