Shanghai, Beijing and Shaanxi are among the first municipalities and provinces to share marriage registration records with each other in a bid to “prevent bigamy and cheating in marriage”, reports Shanghai Daily. Other provinces will gradually hook up to this system, and the goal is to have a nationwide system up and running by 2015.
Currently the system allows you to check on your partner’s marriage status if he/she has a Shanghai hukou, but this is impossible if they’re from elsewhere in China.
The paper then goes on to cite a case to highlight what the new system is trying to be prevent:
Last year, Minhang District People’s Court sentenced a man to 16 months in prison with a two-year reprieve for the crime of bigamy.
The married man, surnamed Wei, lived with another woman who gave birth to a son in the city.
Wei married his wife Huang Ying in his hometown of Yongcheng in Henan Province in 1987. He fell in love with another woman, Zhang Qin, in 2006 and began to live together like a couple in a rented house in Shanghai until his wife found out and reported it to the police.
Excuse us, but that doesn’t sound like bigamy at all. It would be the case if Zhang and Woman #2 went off to register their marriage in some other province, but from what we understand in the article, that wasn’t what they did. Of course, we don’t have enough information here to judge if Woman #2 knew if he was already married, but frankly that is besides the point.
As well-intentioned as the system may be, we are not sure how it is possible for the state to be policing adultery in the 21st century, unless you’re somewhere in Africa and the Middle East of course. Sure, we commiserate with Zhang’s wife and all other victims of cheating spouses, but is this something that the state should be policing at all?
Adultery (no matter how vile or immoral one may think it is) can be the grounds for divorce, but to put it up as a criminal offence raises a million questions related to enforceability. Is there something we’re missing here? Tell us in the comment section below.