updated 7 Mar 2011, 12:16
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Fri, Mar 04, 2011
China Daily/ANN
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Women becoming initiators of more divorces in China
by Cheng Yingqi and Cao Yin

BEIJING - Chinese women are taking the lead in filing for divorce, with 70 percent of cases initiated by wives last year in one local court.

Incompatibility, extramarital affairs and domestic violence were major causes behind the breakups.

The People's Court of Shunyi district, in northeast Beijing, on Tuesday released statistics based on the approximately 800 divorce cases it handled in 2010.

Though statistics in most Chinese cities are not available, Shunyi's statistics are believed to mirror a nationwide rise in the number of women suing husbands who have mistresses or use domestic violence.

Even China's top court appears poised to side with wronged wives against philandering husbands, as it has drafted an interpretation of China's marriage law and is seeking public opinion.

According to the draft provisions, wives could sue to recover money or property that ended up in the hands of a mistress.

"An increasing number of women do not feel ashamed to divorce their husbands," said Gao Lei, a judge of the Shunyi court. "Instead, they have a growing consciousness to legally protect their interests."

Figures at the Shunyi court show that 35 percent of couples dissolved their marriage because of incompatibility, 27 percent because of extramarital affairs followed by 25 percent because of domestic violence.

The divorce rate of the post-1980 generation is on the increase, court figures show. And 25 percent of estranged couples ended relationships of more than two decades, often delaying divorce to avoid affecting their children.

In Foshan, a city in South China's Guangdong province, the majority of divorce lawsuits were also started by wives who were fed up with their wayward husbands, Southern Metropolis Daily cited the local women's federation as saying on Thursday.

"In recent years, it is common in China that women appeal against their spouses," said Chen Wei, a lawyer specializing in marriage in Beijing Yingke Law Firm.

"Most try to sign a divorce settlement by themselves first. After failing to reach an agreement on issues such as the division of property or custody of children, they turn to legal resolution," Chen added.

Across the country, 1.96 million couples applied for divorce while only 1.2 million tied the knot in 2010, figures released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs show.

Meanwhile, China's divorce rate has risen an average of 7.6 percent a year since 2003, when the ministry simplified the procedure of getting married or divorced.

Yet wives are often placed at a disadvantage in divorce lawsuits and do not always obtain satisfactory results, lawyers said.

"Women always find it very hard to collect evidence to prove their husbands have had an extramarital affair or used violence," Chen said.

Jiang Yue, a law professor with Xiamen University, said most female victims of domestic violence take photos of their wounds after visiting a doctor, but fail to show evidence that these injuries were caused by their husbands.

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