Almost 40% of Americans think the institution of marriage is “obsolete”. That was one of the findings of a survey published by TIME magazine last week in association with the Pew Research Centre.
Over in China, the government is keen to prevent the country following in America’s footsteps.
It is worried by a particular statistic of its own: in the first half of this year 850,000 couples separated. Indeed, the divorce rate has increased in each of the past seven years.
Beijing’s bureaucrats are blaming the spate of divorces on infidelity – or more specifically on the practice of taking mistresses. In response they’ve announced a new ‘judicial interpretation’ to the marriage law. The consultation process on the legislation began last week, but should it become binding, the amendments will strip mistresses of legal rights.
That seems more than a little one-sided: it takes two to tango, after all.
But WiC has written before about media interest in China’s mistress culture (issue 5, ‘The other woman’) and it’s also perceived to be enough of a social issue to feature regularly in popular culture (in the hit film Curiosity Killed the Cat, the actress Song Jia, pictured above, played a mistress who was later killed by her lover’s wife).
There are no accurate figures for how many men have mistresses across the country. But in a society said to becoming more materialistic with each additional basis point of GDP growth, the financial allure of becoming a wealthy guy’s concubine has even caught on among well educated female college students.
In fact, South China Normal University recently imposed a new rule: it would expel any student found to be having sex with a married person.
Should the new amendments to the marriage law pass, they will deal a further blow to wannabe temptresses. The primary intention is to strip the ‘other woman’ of any right of legal redress. For example, even if the man has signed a financial agreement with his illicit love, and even if they have co-habited, he may sever his relationship and break his monetary promises and she will have no right to sue.
Further still, if he has handed over money during the relationship, his wife will have the right to sue the mistress to get it back.
Is that even practical? “Whether the law will be effective or should be used to address a moral issue is the subject of much discussion among scholars,” writes the South China Morning Post.
Nor is the Nanfang Daily convinced that the proposed legislation is going to work. In fact, by stripping away potential financial obligations from cheating husbands to their lovers, the newspaper believes more men will be encouraged to play the field.
But at the other end of the libido scale to the wealthy types juggling both a wife and a lover, are another group of millionaires: the love-lorn. They are rich and want a wife, but simply are too shy (or busy) to find one.
The government will be much happier with the service Xu Tianli has to offer. He’s helping rich men to find “love” through his company Diamond Bachelor.
For Rmb30,000 ($4,500) he will help his male clients find high quality wives. His firm employs female staff to scour the shopping malls of Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. Their job? To meet eligible single ladies and then try and pair them up for dates with Diamond Bachelor’s clients.
Xu is typically looking for well-educated women between 22 and 30, elegantly dressed, and between 1.3m and 1.7m in height. Apart from department stores and restaurants, his team also targets hospitals, reports the South China Morning Post. Not in search of recuperating patients, though – apparently Diamond Bachelor has found its clients have a penchant for nurses.
Xu says that a lot of rich guys these days are too busy find wives themselves, and are willing to outsource the task to him.
“Our ‘love hunters’ are professional and educated, ”Xu told Fortune People magazine. “Plus they are all happily married, which is a condition for joining us: because that makes them more convincing and trustworthy.”
That sounds a little contradictory to all those happily-married types carrying on behind their wives’ backs. But Xu told the Morning Express that Diamond Bachelor has a success rate of 80% – by which he means marriage proposals.
The bureaucrats in Beijing will hope that such heady performance carries through to a zero divorce rate too.
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