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Monday, 10 July, 2000, 18:48 GMT 19:48 UK
China rethinks marriage law
Chinese family
Family life is under threat say Chinese officials
China is amending its marriage law to deal with a variety of social problems, including bigamy, domestic violence and the practice of taking a concubine.

Officials are worried about the high incidence of marital break-ups, murders and suicides caused by love affairs.

They are also concerned about statistics which show that domestic violence occurs in 30% of Chinese families.

About 9 million couples get married each year, 450,000 get divorced according to mutual agreement, and about 700,000 end their marriages through the courts.
Chinese family
The governement says the family is key to social stability

Hu Kangsheng, deputy director of the Legislative Affairs Commission, said that marriage in China was coming under increasing threat from bigamy, concubinage, illegal cohabitation and extramarital affairs.

The practice of "bao er nai", or taking a concubine, is on the rise in some prosperous provinces such as South China's Guangdong.

Mr Hu said some overseas businessmen and even Communist Party and government officials were keeping mistresses.

"Such evils not only go against socialist ethics, but also corrupt social values and cause family break-ups, murders and suicides because of love affairs, thus threatening social stability and family planning," he added.

Crime

Officials studying the 20-year-old marriage law are also concerned about rates of juvenile crime caused by divorce.

They said statistics showed more than 40% of young people from broken families commit crimes.

Those drawing up the draft amendment include experts from women's federations, civil affairs departments and the courts.

Reports say all of them agree that domestic violence must be punishable under the law, but they differ over how to judge violent behaviour.

Sexual relations

They are also discussing how to define the criteria for divorce and whether to introduce a system of compensation in divorce cases.

Some experts insist the current criteria which focuses on the breakdown of mutual affection should be changed to the end of sexual relations because it is impossible for courts to determine the degree of affection.

Li Peng, chairman of the National People's Congress, said the government had decided to take a fresh look at the marriage law because the family was a key factor in overall social stability and progress.

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See also:

11 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
China tackles adultery
01 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
China targets kidnappers
07 Jan 99 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese men face life as bachelors
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