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Material Goods Blamed for Marital Strife

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A majority of Chinese people feel unsure about marriage, as the country's divorce rate is almost on par with its economic growth rate, a survey has found.

According to an online survey released on Thursday by China Youth Daily, 78 percent out of 2,714 respondents said they feel unsure about marriage.

A section of the survey which asked whether people care too much about the material assets in a marriage was cited by 63 percent of the respondents as the chief cause of insecurity in marriage.

Statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs show that about 2.47 million couples divorced in China in 2009, a rise of almost 9 percent on the previous year.

"People feel insecure in marriage because it is overburdened nowadays. It is expected to offer too many things besides affection, such as wealth, social status and human resources," Ma Yinan, a professor at Peking University, told China Daily.

The Supreme People's Court made public a draft of judicial interpretations of the marriage law on Nov 16 to solicit opinion.

A controversial section of the draft suggests that once a marriage ends in divorce the pre-marital property is to be recognized as the buyer's personal assets, instead of a couple's common wealth.

The draft also states that the party who makes the down payment for a residence and registers it in his or her name prior to marriage is to be recognized as the owner of the property if the marriage ends in divorce.

If the marital partner contributes to paying the mortgage, he or she will be entitled to receive compensation equivalent to the amount that has been paid when the marriage dissolves, according to the draft.

The previous clause in the law dictated that a house, which is traditionally bought by the bridegroom before the marriage, is regarded as the couple's mutual property and appraised for its value on divorce.

In most cases under the law, a sum of money, usually at least half the value of the property, is then awarded to the spouse who did not buy it, normally the wife.

In response to the proposed changes in the draft, more than 60 percent of the netizens polled in the survey supported this change in the marriage law, while 21 percent were opposed to it.

Feng Nan, a 25-year-old single female worker in Beijing, said: "It makes me feel more hesitant about getting married. Men may pay more for property, but women usually accept more responsibility in terms of caring for family members and doing housework. How can you calculate the value of this work?"

Tian Lan, a professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said the new judicial interpretations are necessary and timely, but far from perfect.

"It is quite possible that a wife forfeits the opportunity to buy a property when she chooses to pay the mortgage with her husband. Therefore, once they get divorced, more compensation should be given to the wife," Tian said.

(China Daily November 26, 2010)

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