Ban on adultery stirs up passion in China

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The Independent Online
A DRAFT new marriage law which tells spouses to practice "mutual faithfulness", declares extramarital affairs illegal and makes divorce more difficult is stirring passions in China, where marriage break-ups and adulterous relationships have become commonplace.

Couples will have to be separated for three years before they can divorce. In the case of an affair, the law would order an adulterous partner to pay compensation to spouses if it led to divorce, and there would be an investigation of any "illicit sexual partners".

An unusually outspoken public debate is under way in the Chinese media as details leak about how the government hopes to reassert family values in a society whose sexual mores have been rewritten during two decades of economic reform. This has caused an upheaval in personal relationships, with China's new breed of successful businessmen viewing a mistress as no less necessary than a mobile telephone, and prostitution is once again rife.

An Internet-based survey this month found among this largely white- collar group a more adventurous approach to personal relations than the new law would like to promote. Only 18 per cent thought that an affair outside marriage should be illegal, and two-thirds said there should be no punishment for the third party. Nearly 60 per cent of the 3,579 respondents disagreed with a three-year separation before divorce.

On the question of "most unbearable" types of behaviour between the sexes, the realities of modern China were apparent. A quarter of respondents cited "having a concubine" and 24 per cent said "forced sex within marriage". Only 2 per cent cited pre-marital sex.