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Freedom in Marriage end Harmony in the Family


''The passing of time makes people forget some memories, but I shall never forget those days when I was a slave. It was like nightmare that had just happened yesterday.'' said 69-year-old Tsering Lhamo about marriage under the feudal system.

Tsering Lhamo's parents were family slaves. They gave birth to her in Shanglin. From the day she was born she was owned. When she turned 12, the slave owner took her to Jieba and 'Tsering Lhamo never saw her parents again.

Tsering Lhamo grew up in an abyss of misery. In 1951, when she was 25 years old, some visitors came to the slave owner's tome, bringing with them a few slaves. Among them was a young man who often helped her with her work. They fell in love and secretly became husband and wife. Not long afterward Tsering Lhamo became pregnant. She was happy, but also frightened, because household slaves had no right to heir spouses. It was up to owners to decide if a slave could many-when and to whom.

One day their secret was discovered by the feudal lord. He claimed that Tsering Lhamo had ruined his family rules and dirtied his manor. A few days later they took Tsering Lhamo's husband away and he never returned. While she was pregnant, Tsering Lhamo still worked from dawn to dusk. On April 15,according to the Tibetan calendar-which fell coincidentally on the holy and pure day when people pay homage to the Buddha, Tsering Lhamo gave birth to her first son in a yak barn.Like her, Tsering Lhamo's son was also a slave from the first day he was born. He endured more bitterness than his mother for he never saw his father.

Several years passed. Tsering Lhamo married another family serf of the same feudal lord, and gave birth to her second son in the cattle barn. When the slave owner found out about this, he did not agree with the marriage, and wanted to sell her husband to another slave owner. Fortunately the work team arrived in time to undertake the Democratic Reform, which saved her second home from being destroyed.

After the Democratic Reform was carried out, a house and some land was allocated to Tsering Lhamo. In the early spring of the following year. Tsering Lhamo organized the emancipated serfs to set up the first productive mutual aid team in Tibet. Later she became a labor model, a deputy to the Autonomous Region's People's Congress and Vice-Director of the Revolutionary Committee of the Autonomous Region. People began to recognize her name.

"In fact I'm still myself, I am still that Tsering Lhamo. '' she says. The only thing is that heaven and earth have been turned upside down. My parents named me Tsering Lhamo;' Tiering' in the Tibetan language means longevity and 'Lhamo' means fairy. In the past I was only a household slave who led a bitter life. But today I have really become a "fairy of Longevity.''

In old Tibet, the slave owner controlled the rights of the serfs' birth, death and marriage. Serfs and slaves did not have freedom of marriage. Their marriage was decided by the slave owner. Serfs of different owners who had married had to pay "redemption fees, '' in some cases, an exchange was made with a man swapped for man and a woman for woman.

In other cases, after a couple married, the ownership of both husband and wife remained unchanged, but their sons would belong to the husband's owner and their daughters to the wife's owner. Children of serfs were registered the moment they were born, sealing their life-long fate.

Old Tibet still preserved remnants of the primitive group marriage and family life, Polygamy, polyandry and the custom of having irregular spouses were practiced. Polyandry prevailed widely among poverty-stricken families, where the brothers shared a wife. This form of marriage accounted for about 24 percent in old Tibet. Polygamy existed mainly among the nobility, which accounted for about five percent.

In these two types of marriage, women did not enjoy equality or freedom. They were looked upon as reproduction machines and playthings. The proportion of men to women in old Tibet was 48:52; quite a number of men were lamas who were not allowed to marry. There was also a relatively large number of families who practiced polyandry, which resulted in a surplus of spouseless women, which was a primary factor that contributed to the formation of marriage of irregular spouses. In the rural and pastoral areas, unmarried women can often be seen with two or three children. These mothers undertake the obligation of raising children on their own. The husband does not have any responsibilities. This illustrates another phenomena of inequality between men and women.

Since the implementation of Democratic Reform, in accordance to the ''Marriage Law of the PRC, '' the Tibet Autonomous Region formulated ''Accommodation Rules for the Implementation of the Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China.'' The law stipulated that ''the marriage system of freedom in marriage, monogamy and equality of men and women should be implemented in Tibet.'' Tibetan women gained the freedom in love and marriage.

Today, young people in Tibet live like bright mountain flowers in full bloom, ''Norbo-glingkha'' on holidays is an ideal place for young Tibetans to court each other. During festivals, pairs of young men and women can be seen going there to engage in courtship activities. Young Tibetans attach more importance to the exchange of feelings between each other than their past generation.

G.Yang is a university graduate who fell in love with a young man from a farmer's family. G.Yang's parents hoped that she would find another boyfriend with the same background as hers, but G.Yang was reluctant, ''The most important thing is that two lovers should get along with each other '' she said.

Tashi, a 20-year-old Tibetan woman, had grown up like the blooming Kalsang flowers on the grassland. Her home, a ranch at the highland 4,700 meters above sea level, was in Zhabdun, the source of the Yarding Zangbo River-the mother river of the Tibetan people.

Two years ago, Tashi fell in love with a young herdsman.Her parents respected her choice and liked their future son-in-law. Tash's father prepared a rich dowry for her. On the day of her marriage, several dozen people came to greet the bride followed by an enormous number of cattle and lamb. After sending Tashi off, her father Wangdu sighed, ''Young people of today are really happy. They are free to love and marry. In my day our marriages were decided by the pastoral owner.

''The Marriage Law off the PRC '' stipulates that the marriage age for women is 20 and 22 for men, the "Accommodation Rules for the Implementation of the Marriage Law of the PRC'' stipulates that women may many at age 18 and men at 20, which has relaxed the Tibetan people's marriage age.

In today's Tibetan family, the status of women has been raised. More and more families manage their family income together and share the responsibilities of doing household chores, raising and educating their children, ''The thing that I'm most satisfied with about my husband is that he consults with me about everything and we do the household chores together,'' said worker Migdmar-rjega. A young man, working at the Lhasa Carpet Factory says, ''My wife knows her own mind. She is very capable. In our family we follow the person who is right.''

Yudon is a worker on Barkhor Street in Lhasa. She has a stall along the street and a shop in along the lane. She takes care of the stall and her husband manages the shop. Yudon is warm, frank and open, while her husband is a person of few words. She keeps the stock at both business, and every year she goes to Zham port to replenish goods. The couple have three children. She has the final say in the family.

Kalsang Metog is a Tibetan singer. In 1980, while she worked with the art troupe at the Chengdu Military Region, she met a handsome Tibetan pilot, whom she married. After the marriage. Kalsang Metog wanted to continue her career and her husband wanted to continue to be a pilot. One wanted to stay in Chengdu and the other had to return to the air force base. Kalsang Metog did not want to give up her profession, but hated to leave her husband behind. After much consideration, she decided to temporarily change her profession and find a job at the air force base. But she never forgot that she wanted to sing again and her husband encouaged and suported her to pratice singing in her spare time.

In 1991 Kalsang Metog's husband was transferred to do civilian work at the Shanghai Aviation Company. He became the first Tibetan pilot in China to fly the giant Boeing 757 airliner.It was also during this year that Kalsang Metog reappeared on stage and won first prize at the Theatrical Festival of the P.L.A. Her performance of ''outside the Singing competition''' also won first prize. The army unit awarded her with two Citations of Merit, Third Class, and bestowed upon her the army rank of colonel. For Kalsang Metog, 1991 was a year in which she achieved a double harvest in her career and in her family.

The new generation of young educated Tibetan women want to pursue happiness in family life and also want to be successful in their careers.

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