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China Simplifies Procedures for Marriage, Divorce

Chinese couples planning to get married may soon do so without a letter from their employers testifying to their unmarried status and without first having a health examination, according to a new regulation issued by the State Council Monday.


The regulation, to take effect Oct. 1, consists of six chapters, or 22 items, which will annul the old version that was in effect for nine years.


An adult male and female will be able to marry each other legally by only providing their ID cards and residence documents, and by signing a statement that they are single and not related, the new regulation said.


For the past several decades, government marriage offices required people to show letters provided by their employers to guarantee that they were qualified for marriage.


The new regulation says that people may take a health examination before marriage, but will not be forced to do so.


The marriage will be invalidated if one of the partners is shown to have a medical condition which, under the law would disqualify a marriage, such as leprosy or insanity. One of the partners may apply for an annulment if the other suffers from such a disease before marriage and does not recover after.


The new rules stress that couples without legal registration will not have their rights and interests protected by the law.


Couples will receive divorce certificates at once if they both agree to get divorced and settle amicably their property, any debts and care of any children, the new rules say.


The number of Chinese registering for marriage decreased from 8.916 million couples in 1998 to 7.86 million last year, according to the All-China Women's Federation.


The number of divorces has remained stable in the past five years, at about 1.2 million each year.


However, experts noted that in some remote villages couples still regard a traditional wedding party as sufficient to qualify couples for marriage instead of legal registration, and in some places poor people can not afford to get married formally due to illegal charges imposed by government offices.


(Xinhua News Agency August 19, 2003)

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