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More Say for Chinese Couples Walking Down the Aisle

Getting married may soon become a much simpler matter in China.


A draft amendment to the marriage registry regulations, which is awaiting final approval, has aroused great interest across the nation.


Two major changes are expected to be launched to adjust the present guidelines that require a couple to get their employers' approval and a physical checkup before tying the knot, a Ministry of Civil Affairs official said.


Coming from the ministry, the draft was accepted in principle by the State Council at the end of July and is awaiting final approval.


If the new regulation is endorsed, only identification cards and "hukou" documents, or residence booklets, will be needed for both marriage and divorce.


Before, couples were required to present stamped documents from their employers, or from the neighborhood committee if they were without a regular job, to prove their unmarried status.


The changes mean couples will have to affirm to their non-married status at registration.


And to prevent polygamy, civil affairs departments are expected to set up a giant database to keep track of marriage records.


This has been warmly welcomed by the public. Nearly 90 per cent of replies to a web survey conducted by Sina.com were in favor of doing away with employers' obligations.


However, abolishing the mandatory physical checkup has caused hot debate.


"A physical checkup before marriage is quite important to the couple's future happiness," said Meng Ren, a Beijing resident in her late 20s who got married six years ago.


But it is known that some hospitals use the checkup service to make money by usually providing nominal and less than reliable test results, said Chen Xinxin, a marriage and family expert with the All-China Women's Federation.


In addition, the checkup procedure is often regarded as an invasion of privacy.


The present checkup also stipulates that people with certain illnesses cannot get married.


However, there is no medical reason that should disqualify people from marriage, even they are HIV/AIDS carriers, Chen argues.


(China Daily August 18, 2003)


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