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International News Archive
April 28 - April 30, 2000


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This page contains news for the period Friday, April 28, 2000 through Sunday, April 30, 2000.


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Sunday, April 30, 2000

'Retirement divorce' rising in Japan

A story published today in the San Jose Mercury News reports that divorce rates are rising fast in Japan, especially for older couples.

The divorce rate reached nearly 2 per 1,000 people in 1998, double that of a decade ago, and the figures for 1999 are expected to be even higher. That's lower than the U.S. rate of 4.4 per 1,000, but it's now on a par with countries such as France and Germany.

Leading the way are older women. The divorce rate is growing fastest among couples who have been married for more than 20 years.

Increasingly in Japan, older wives are walking out on their husbands, creating what the Japanese call "retirement divorce'' -- often looking for a little freedom now that their children are grown.

Although divorce is more common, its stigma has not disappeared. Most older Japanese women are unwilling to discuss their thoughts on this topic with friends or family.

Many women in Japan marry more out of a sense of duty than for love. Japanese, especially women, are not considered to have fulfilled their obligations until they marry and raise a family. Most women stop working for wages when they wed.

But as Japanese women have become better educated and more independent they are demanding more personal happiness and fulfillment from their marriages.

Japan's faltering economy also bears some responsibility for the rising divorce rate. One goal of marriage is financial stability. When that falls apart, the marriage often collapses as well.

Divorce law may pass in Chile

A story published today in the San Jose Mercury News reports that people in Chile seeking a divorce may no longer have to lie to get one.

The only way to end a marriage this side of the grave in Chile is to have it annulled, and that often requires lying to the court, as it must establish that the marriage was never valid. Divorce is not allowed in this mostly Catholic nation.

However, even annulment is not an option in Chile if only one partner wants to call it quits. Instead, many Chileans separate and live in out-of-wedlock unions that produce illegitimate children, who had few legal rights before last year.

But changes may be afoot. A proposed divorce law has passed the 120-member lower chamber, but is stalled in the 48-seat senate. The Catholic Church is staunchly opposed to a divorce law. And many Chileans, 77 percent of whom are at least nominally Catholic, are reluctant to fight the church out of deference, including for its pivotal role in helping to end the 17-year dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet in 1990.

However, the political dynamic may change in favor of a divorce law now that Socialist President Ricardo Lagos has taken office. He is on his second marriage, and his annulment was a campaign issue. Women's rights groups hope his personal history will make a difference.

According to a Santiago lawyer, Chileans have been ending marriages for decades by testifying falsely in court to show that for some reason or another the marriage was never valid in the first place. Annulment is the legal equivalent of a white lie, he said, and it clears the way for more important legal matters involving the children of such marriages. Children born from a marriage ruled invalid could be expected to be considered illegitimate, but the annulment procedure negates that stigma.

Proponents say the proposed divorce law, which also would create family courts, is designed to help women leave marriage on an equal economic footing and to protect the interests of children.

Leaders of the Catholic Church in Chile argue that allowing divorce would weaken the family.

The story says that Church officials declined to be interviewed, but provided a position paper from Chile's Conference of Bishops. Divorce, it says, weakens the fundamentals of marriage, which "are replaced with greater egoism, consumerism and an unstoppable hedonism and other factors with signs of cultural decadence and not of progressive values.''


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