CHINA / SOCIETY
Shanghai political advisor to propose ‘cooling-off period’ before marriage
Published: Jan 16, 2021 03:12 AM

A couple show the certificate for their marriage during a traditional wedding ceremony held in Guiyang, capital of southwest China's Guizhou Province, Nov. 16, 2020. (Xinhua/Ou Dongqu)



A Shanghai political advisor plans to propose a cooling-off period for future spouses before they register for marriage, aiming to offer couples enough time to learn more about each other.

During this period, the couples will have the right to access some of their future spouses' personal information, particularly their health and credit conditions, and can rethink whether to continue with the marital registration process, said Xu Shanshan, a lawyer who also serves as a member of the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the city's top political advisory body.

Xu suggests the period be 30 days, she told the Global Times on Monday. "For the important information that usually can affect people's marital decisions, including one's medical history, marital history, criminal record and debt, governments and public platforms should offer couples conveniences to enquire," read a draft version of the proposal that Xu sent to the Global Times on Monday.

The period can be 30 days long, Xu told the Global Times.

Xu is working on perfecting the draft proposal. The proposal is likely to be discussed at Shanghai's forthcoming Lianghui, or two sessions, one of the city's most important political and economic events.

The idea of a "pre-marriage cooling-off period" has gone viral on Chinese social media, with lots of support from netizens. 

Many Weibo users applauded Xu's proposal, saying it is necessary for couples to spend time getting to know about each other's personal conditions to avoid possible fraud.

"My sister was a victim of a 'lightning marriage.' Only months after her marriage did she find out that her violent husband was an ex-prisoner," a user commented. "Her tragedy might have been avoided if there was a 'cooling-off period.'"

But some marriage and family experts in Shanghai don't support this proposal.

"Advocating a sufficient understanding of each other before marriage has its positive significance, but the proposal is not practical," said Liu Wenrong, an associate research fellow at the Institution of Sociology under the Shanghai Academy of Social Science.

In practice, there are few channels for couples to get the information they need, such as health condition, debts, credit and criminal records, Liu explained. "Chinese laws protect citizens' personal privacy," she added.

The privacy right should give way to a spouse's right to know and to express his or her true willing to marry, Xu responded in her draft proposal. 

Xu nonetheless suggests future couples promise to keep each other's personal information confidential by signing a non-disclosure agreement under the guidance of local marriage registration organ.

Instead of setting a waiting period for to-be-wed couples, Liu suggested that local governments could enhance marriage education. "Before registering for marriage, couples can learn some marriage life skills at government 'training classes,' including communication, wealth management and child rearing," she told the Global Times Friday.

Prior to this regional proposal, a 30-day cooling-off period for divorce took effect across China from January 1. Several provinces and cities reportedly saw a divorce peak just before that, as many people believed it would be more difficult to get a divorce under the new mechanism.

In Shanghai, so many couples rushed to civil affairs organs for divorce last December that "some of them even did back-door deals with officials to get it done," recalled a local demographer reached by the Global Times.
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