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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
China makes marriage easier
Chinese bride in Tiananmen Square
Chinese marriages have been mired in red tape
China is no longer demanding that couples obtain permission from their workplace before marrying, but is continuing to ban gay unions.

New Chinese rules on marriage, which take effect on 1 October, also make divorce easier.

Civil affairs official Zhang Mingliang said the previous demand for workplace approval "violated... the freedom of marriage", according to the state news agency Xinhua.

The continued ban on gay marriage, meanwhile, will fuel a growing debate on the issue in China, says the BBC's Francis Markus.

Homosexuality is still often hidden in China, and was only removed from a list of psychiatric disorders in 2001.

For heterosexual couples, marriage should now be less bureaucratic.

Couples will only need to show their ID cards and residency papers, and to sign a document stating they are not married or related, state media said.

They will no longer have to undergo health checks and obtain certification that they are single from their employers.

In the past, state employers controlled every aspect of their employees' living arrangements.

Quickie divorces

Chinese marriage and divorce booklets will also change colour.

Previously the marriage documents were red, the traditional Chinese symbol of happiness, and the divorce books were green, a colour which also has a cultural resonance.

Mr Zhang told the Beijing Times that the certificates should lose their "emotional shades", and his ministry was studying what colour they should be.

The BBC's Francis Markus says that divorce has now become pretty much instant, if both parties agree.

However, he says that amid falling numbers of Chinese tying the knot, state media have felt the need to reassure the more traditional minded that "more convenient marriage doesn't mean more casual marriage".

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