Causes of increased divorce in China, and background of the proposed reforms


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A professor in China wrote to us:

With regard to the recent reform effort in marriage law in China, there has
been lots of debate. Unlike the United States, we have national law
governing marriage and divorce practice. Prior to the opening-up policy in
1978, the divorce rate was very low and it continued till the mid-1980s when
the divorce rate started soaring up. Many had to do with political reasons,
because many people got married during the "Cultural Revolution" out of
political considerations, and in the 1980s, they wanted to end it. Some had
to do with the migration of a large number of urban youth to the country,
where they married local village girls or boys. When this huge number of
youth returned to cities in the 1980s, their marriages often ended in
divorce. Still others went through divorce when they went to countries like
the United States, Japan, Germany, Canada, and France. They left their
families at home and came back years later to file a divorce lawsuit . More
recently, influenced by Western ideas either through books or through movies
(particularly Hollywood movies), young people are more readily to get
divorced when their marriages get rough.

While the growing divorce rate was part of concern for reforming marriage
law in China, an equally important, perhaps more important, concern had to
do with the increase of extramarital incidence. Great physical mobility,
including people from overseas, has given rise to more extramarital affairs.
Many people live in one city but work in another city (not commuter
marriage). They find a companion of the opposite sex to live together. Quite a
lot of migrant laborers do the same, leaving their villages to work in urban
areas and going home only once in a year.

They easily find other migrant workers of opposite sex in the same situation
and almost "naturally" feel drawn to each other. However, what is more
shocking is that numerous successful businessmen, corrupted government
officials and overseas entrepreneurs pay money to young girls to let them
become their concubines, causing tremendous trouble, pain, and blows to
their marriages when their secrets get revealed. Obviously, women's rights
are violated, for both wives and concubines, and marriages are threatened,
and families become unstable. Out of the concern to protect women' rights as
well as preserve stable family, marriage law reformers wanted to curb this
dangerous trend and stop this unethical practice. So, the new law stipulates
that any married person who lives with an unmarried person of opposite sex
as husband and wife will face the possible charge of bigamy. Likewise, any
unmarried person knowingly lives with a married person of opposite sex as
husband and wife will face the possible charge of being the unwelcomed "third
party" in breaking up another person's marriage . It is hoped that these new
stipulations will serve a deterrent against rampant extramarital practice,
and help the hurt party, usually women, to claim more awards in property
settlement should divorce become the final solution. Whether it is going to
work the way as it is intended remains to be seen.



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Originally posted and maintained by Americans for Divorce Reform; now maintained by John Crouch. You can call me at (703) 528-6700 or e-mail me through my law office's web site.