Disrupting long-held assumptions that Chinese women tend to endure unhappy marriages due to societal expectations and economic pressures, a recent speech given by Zhōu Qiáng 周强, president of the Supreme People’s Court, revealed that over 70 percent of divorces in China are initiated by women.
Zhou, China’s highest-ranking judge, made the striking revelation on November 6, in a speech (in Chinese) at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. Commenting on the topic of China’s overall divorce rate, which has been rising continuously since 2002, Zhou said that roughly 74 percent of the divorces handled by Chinese courts were filed by women. He also pointed out that contrary to the popular belief that most couples start to unravel at the seven-year mark, Chinese marriages are inclined to fall apart as soon as three years after the wedding.
While Zhou didn’t elaborate on when the data was collected or why more women were doing the walking, Chinese social media was aflame over his remarks. Many internet users applauded the phenomenon as a sign of Chinese women asserting more control over their marriages in spite of familial and cultural pressures in Chinese society, where women are expected to stay in a bad marriage — even in extreme cases that involve domestic violence or an unfaithful partner.
“This is a pivotal achievement in Chinese women’s liberation. It indicates that they are not willing to put up with unhappiness in marriage anymore,” a Weibo user commented (in Chinese). Echoing the congratulatory sentiment, another female Weibo user wrote, “We are able to earn our own living. When we don’t have to rely on someone else, marriage does nothing but place restraints on ourselves.”
In addition to a shift in their perception of marriage, a number of women on the Chinese internet rightfully pointed out that financial independence also plays a vital part in women’s decisions to divorce. In a recent report released by the real-estate broker platform Bèiké Zhǎofáng 贝壳找房, it’s noted that about 46.7 percent of all homebuyers were women in 2018. Driven by fear of unfair loss of assets when marriages fail, a growing number of Chinese women purchased their own homes before marriage, which means a divorce without potential economic ruin is possible.