In a drastic attempt to preserve the sanctity of marriage, a city district in China is limiting the number of divorce filings to 15 per day. The rule was put into effect in 2012, but has recently made headlines after a couple failed to make the daily cut-off point and complained to the state media.
Government officials and members of the Civil Affairs Bureau in the Chang’an District, located in Xi’an City, claim that capping the number of divorce filings to 15 per day is “well-intentioned” and gives hot-headed couples a chance to cool down and re-evaluate whether or not they actually want to proceed forward with divorce. According to Lin Wenhui, the Bureau’s head of marriage registration, says the limited number of allowed filings is “aimed at saving families from impulsive divorces”. Additionally, Wenhui said that there are some couples who decide to not get a divorce, even after they had previously obtained one of the coveted filing slots.
The Chang’an District reports that their divorce rate is declining, while the overall occurrence of divorce throughout the country is on the rise. According to government statistics, 17,670 couples officially called it quits in Xi’an City (where the Chang’an District is located) since the filing cap was instituted in 2012, while the nationwide number of marriages that ended in divorce soared to 3.5 million. However, the Chang’an District, specifically, has seen a decrease in finalized divorce cases since 2012, which is in stark contrast to the increase throughout the rest of China.
Critics, analysts, and experts all have different theories as to why the divorce rate in China is on such a momentous rise. Some believe that women are finally finding the courage to go against tradition and file for divorce for many reasons, one of which is an attempt to escape a violent or abusive marriage. Others, on the other hand, hypothesize that happily married couples are filing for divorce in an attempt to gain more financial stability via investment and real estate opportunities.
Lin, along with fellow members of the Civil Affairs Bureau in Chang’an District, believes that the divorce cap is saving and protecting families by preserving the sanctity and tradition of marriage in China. However, one may wonder if the Bureau and government officials have the right to impose such harsh rules and deny residents their basic civil liberties. By limiting the number of divorce filings, government officials are, in a sense, forcing unhappy couples to remain in traumatic, unsafe and unloving relationships.