Chinese women are trying to get out of unhappy marriages, but the courts are saying no.
Chinese women are seeking divorce – and the courts are stopping them
A new report from the Supreme People’s Court has revealed that more than 70% of the nearly three million divorce disputes in 2016 and 2017 were filed by wives.
And, in 66% of all cases filed, the judges ruled the couples should remain together.
Divorce rates have been soaring in China as women become more financially independent and unwilling to live with troubled marriages.
The “crude divorce rate” – which measures the number of separations for every 1,000 people in the population – doubled in the decade between 2006-2016, from 1.5 to 3.
A total of 4.2 million couples got divorced in 2016, an 8% rise from the previous year.
The trend runs against China’s traditional culture and Communist Party ideology, both of which regard stable families as the building blocks of a harmonious society.
To counter the trend, the Chinese government is warning against “irrational divorce,” while the judiciary has stepped up efforts to block couples from legally separating.
In a 2016 directive on family disputes, the Supreme People's Court told judges to strike a balance between respecting people’s right to get divorced and defending the stability of families.
Last year, several local courts began to require couples who applied for divorce to embark on a three- to six-month “cooling-off period” before allowing them to go ahead.
While in the city of Zhongshan, in southern China’s Guangdong province, those filing for divorce have to attend mandatory mediation classes, according to Chinese media.
Zhang Leilei, a feminist activist from the southern city of Guangzhou, says Chinese authorities still hold the traditional belief that society should try everything to make a marriage work.
Falling birth rates are also likely adding to the government's worries about the rising numbers of breakups, she says.
“More Chinese women have realized they should not stay in failed marriages,” says Zhang. “The courts need to respect their demands."
In 2016 and 2017, about 78% of the plaintiffs gave incompatibility as the reason for the divorce, according to the court report.
Domestic abuse was the second most common reason, cited in 15% of the disputes.
Over 90% of the abuse complaints came from the wives.