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National database to track marriages

(China Daily)

08:20, July 26, 2012

BEIJING, July 24 (Xinhuanet) -- A new national database has been hailed as a major step toward allowing couples on the Chinese mainland to get married where they live, rather than where they have their permanent residence.

Until now, couples had to register their nuptials in the place where they hold hukou, or permanent household registration.

However, the database, which went into operation at the end of last month, will make it possible for people, including migrant workers, to file the paperwork anywhere, Yu Jianliang, director of social affairs for the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday.

"That is our ultimate goal," he said, "but it takes time to amend the laws and regulations to realize that goal."

The national database will connect databases in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, excluding Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and will store the marriage records of every citizen, which will help the government to better manage population information and prevent marital fraud, Yu said.

Starting this month, every marriage and divorce registered with civil affairs departments nationwide will be digitized and stored in the national database.

The civil affairs authorities will also speed up digitizing marriage status information of people whose marital information was recorded manually on paper on the Chinese mainland since 1949, Yu said.

The establishment of a national online database will effectively prevent marital fraud, said Jiang Yongping, a researcher at the Women's Studies Institute of China under the All-China Women's Federation.

In the past, the lack of a national database gave people a chance to conceal their marital status and illegally marry more than one person at the same time, Jiang said.

She said that this move will better protect women's rights, arguing that studies have showed that most of the time women are victims of bigamy in China.

"In addition, collecting and analyzing such information will help the government and other policymakers to better understand the characteristics of people's behaviors in marriage nowadays," said Ni Chunxia, director of the ministry's marriage registration division.

In the future, the ministry will share and exchange the marriage registration information with the courts, which handle about one-fifth of all divorce cases, and foreign affairs departments that register marriage for Chinese nationals married overseas, in order to keep the national database updated, Ni said.

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