Officials are now recommending couples take vows and have witnesses present at their marriage registration to make the occasion “more ceremonial”.
A statement jointly issued by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the All-China Women’s Federation introduced new registration guidelines, which ranged from bringing vows to having government officials present.
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The aim is to create a “solemn and sacred ceremony, [where] the parties can realize and remember the responsibility of the marriage and family.”
The policies come as China, where the family unit holds major cultural significance, experiences declining marriage rates and rising rates of divorce.
The guidelines aren’t set in stone, but they are highly recommended by authorities. The government wants to “carry forward the excellent culture of Chinese families” and help maintain happy marriages. Pre-marital counseling, uncommon in China, is also mentioned in the new guidelines.
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Opinions online are divided over the issue. Some users supported the move. One Weibo user said “What’s the big deal? You’re getting married anyway! Doesn’t the inclusion of a ceremony make it a happy event?”
Other netizens commented that it isn’t the government’s place to interfere with people’s marriages, and that the formalization of the ceremony would not have any effect on the outcome of the marriage.
On the website Zhihu, one user commented “there are various reasons for the high divorce rate! It can’t be solved by enhancing the feeling of ceremony!”
Another user sarcastically critiqued the proposed measure of having an ‘official’ stand witness, “if he has an official position and achievements in a certain field, will that make my certification more sacred?”
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This isn’t the first step the government has taken to “strengthen” families. The new guidelines come hot on the heels of a civil code passed by the government in May, which enforced a 30 day ‘cooling-off period’ for a mutual divorce, hoping that couples would use the time to rethink. 4.15 million couples filed for divorce last year, and authorities are eager to reduce that number.
That civil code didn’t come without controversy, either — many women expressed their anger online, calling it a step backwards for women’s rights in China, and a “betrayal of the PRC’s marriage law” (which allowed a woman to get a divorce even if her husband disagreed).
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