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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 19:15 GMT
Chile Congress legalises divorce
A Chilean street
Most Chileans support the new divorce law
Congress in Chile has voted to legalise divorce after a decade of debate.

Chile had been one of only three countries in the world where divorce is banned, and the Roman Catholic Church strongly opposed the change.

But President Ricardo Lagos is now expected to sign the bill into law within a month, after the lower house endorsed an earlier Senate vote.

Under the new law, a couple may divorce a year after separating if both partners agree to split up.

If one partner disagrees, a divorce is allowed after three years.

Chile's Minister for Women Cecilia Perez, who witnessed the vote, told La Tercera newspaper that the law would come into force six months after President Lagos signed it.

Legal loophole

The measure, which changes Chile's law on civil matrimony for the first time in 120 years, was approved by the Senate last year.

The lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, followed suit on Thursday.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Chile, Archbishop Francisco Errazuriz, had criticised the move, saying it would threaten the family and undermine the sanctity of marriage.

But Chileans trapped in unhappy partnerships have long resorted to a legal loophole by having their marriages annulled, correspondents say.

Once the new law takes effect, only Malta and the Philippines will be without a divorce law.




SEE ALSO:
Till the divorce law becomes legal
06 Oct 03  |  Americas
Chilean TV snubs anti-divorce ads
30 Sep 03  |  Americas
Church slams Chile divorce plans
19 Sep 03  |  Americas


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