Earthquake blamed for divorce rise

08:19, November 08, 2010      

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More people got divorced in Southwest China's Sichuan province than in any other part of the country in the first three quarters of this year, with some experts blaming the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 for the phenomenon.

According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, some 1.3 million couples got divorced nationwide in the first nine months of this year, and Sichuan topped the list of divorcees with 102,596 couples untying the knot.

Last year, Sichuan ranked seventh nationwide in terms of the number of divorcees. In Chengdu, the provincial capital, the number of divorced couples rose for seven consecutive years from 2003, when the revised Regulation on Marriage Registration came into effect. The number has increased from 13,525 in 2003 to 39,020 last year.

The revised regulation has to some extent facilitated divorces, according to Xu Anqi, standing director of the Chinese Association of Marriage and Family Studies.

Before 2003, couples had to first produce letters of introduction from their work units or neighborhood committees if they decided to part ways. Now, they only have to show their identification cards, marriage certificates and divorce agreements to get their hands on certificates of divorce.

Social mobility has played a role in the jump in the province's divorce rate, according to Chen Kefu, deputy chief of the Sichuan provincial department of civil affairs.

Each year, millions of young migrant workers from Sichuan leave the province in search of better job opportunities, leaving behind their spouses, which causes rifts among them, Chen said.

Guang Wei, a sociology expert with the Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences, blamed the earthquake in the province's Wenchuan county on May 12, 2008, for the rise in the divorce rate.

After experiencing the 8-magnitude earthquake, which killed more than 69,000 and left 18,000 missing, many Sichuan residents began thinking life was short and unpredictable, and decided to live each day to the fullest, Guang said.

If they do not get along with their spouses, they decide to part ways, he said.

The case of Wu Jian and Liu Chuan could exemplify his assertion.

Wu Jian and Liu Chuan, both Chengdu civil servants in their early 40s, did not end their marriage even though they did not utter a word to each other for six years, for they could not clinch an agreement on the division of their property.

But soon after the quake, Wu agreed to give as much compensation as his wife desired to end their relationship, saying, "Life is more valuable than property."

By Huang Zhiling, China Daily


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