Divorces plummet 70% after China introduces mandatory ‘cooling off’ period

·2-min read
<p>A couple poses for wedding photos outside St Joseph’s Church, also known as Wangfujing Catholic Church, in Beijing </p> (AFP via Getty Images)

A couple poses for wedding photos outside St Joseph’s Church, also known as Wangfujing Catholic Church, in Beijing

(AFP via Getty Images)

The number of divorces in China has plummeted to a historical low after the introduction of a controversial “cooling off” period between couples.

Just 296,000 couples got divorced in the first quarter of 2021, down 72 per cent in comparison to 1.06 million in the final quarter of last year, according to data by China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs.

In an attempt to lower divorce rates, China approved a law that made it mandatory for couples filing for divorce to wait for 30 days before legalities were pursued by the court. The law was enacted in January amid much criticism from women activists and individuals.

The decline in couples splitting up has been attributed to the controversial law that was called a step back for women by activists.

Activists and lawyers said the law would hamper personal freedoms, trap people in unhappy marriages and lead to a rise in domestic violence. However, supporters in the government said it was necessary to ensure “stability and social order.”

"Marriage and reproduction are closely related. The decline in the marriage rate will affect the birth rate, which in turn affects economic and social developments," Yang Zongtao, an official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said after announcement last year.

He said the cooling off period was to "improve relevant social policies and enhance propaganda efforts to guide the public to establish positive values on love, marriage and family."

Increasing divorce rate in China over recent years coupled with its large ageing population prompted action among policymakers to push the law. The divorce rate has increased in China since 2003 when marriage laws were liberalised and women become more independent.

According to All-China Women’s Federation, women sought 70 per cent more divorces with more autonomy and reduced social stigma.

In 2019, 4.15m Chinese couples untied the knot, an increase by 1.3 million in 2003 when couples were allowed to separate by mutual consent without going to court.

Apart from China, France and the United Kingdom have waiting period of two and six weeks respectively for couples before courts take the decision.

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