The State Council is scrutinizing a draft regulation that would abolish the requirement for engaged couples to undergo premarital medical tests in favour of privacy protection.
"It is a positive measure to show respect for privacy and human rights," said Yao Yang, a professor with Peking University's China Centre for Economic Research.
The draft regulation on marriage registration says would-be couples could choose whether or not to take the medical examinations. The tests are currently compulsory.
The State Council is entitled to issue administrative regulations according to the nation's Legislative Procedure Law.
The Marriage Law says a person is forbidden from getting married if a disease from which they suffer makes them "medically improper" for marriage. The law does not specify any particular diseases, though the registration rule lists leprosy.
In 2001, 8.79 million people had the premarital medical examination. Nearly 20,000 were deemed ineligible to get married as a result.
However, the content of the medical examination has long been attacked for being irrelevant and an intrusion of people's privacy.
"I do not see why it is important to test my height and weight to decide whether I am qualified to marry someone," said Xiao Bai, a 32-year-old Beijing resident.
Liang Ming, Xiao's wife, said: "I felt very uncomfortable undergoing such an examination."
However, one doctor from the Dongsi Hospital for Gynaecology and Obstetrics said that couples should treat the premarital medical examination seriously because it will have the direct link with their life after marriage.
Yao said the State should leave it up to individuals to decide if they should get married.
"People are supposed to know exactly the physical conditions of their lovers," Yao said.
"We should not make 99 per cent of people do unnecessary checks for the 1 per cent of people who may lie," he added.
The proposed new rule also reflects a shift in legislative philosophy, moving from preventive measures to subsequent punishment when managing social affairs, Yao said.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs, which drafted much of the proposed regulation, refused to comment yesterday.
But it is widely believed that the new regulation will take effect this year.
(China Daily January 3, 2003)