This is the only country in the West-ern Hemisphere that still prohibits divorce. But after a 120-year battle, Chile is on the threshold of approving a law to change that, even though the result may carry so many qualifications and preconditions that the process of ending a marriage could become even more complex. \nOpponents, led by the Roman Catholic Church and its allies in the main right-wing party in this nation of 15 million people, are fighting to have the bill include compulsory mediation, waiting periods of up to five years and no possibility of divorce unless both partners want it. \nIn the name of human rights and family values, they are also demanding that couples be allowed to choose marriage with a "no di-vorce" option. \n"Things are getting a bit complicated, and some of these features are going to create prob-lems," said Maria Antonieta Saa, a member of Congress who introduced the legislation in 1997. \n"But in the end, I think we will be able to pass a quite reasonable bill that will finally give people in Chile an honest and civilized way to terminate a marriage," she said. \nOpinion polls indicate that 70 percent of Chileans favor legalizing divorce. But the church hierarchy has been conducting an intense campaign that includes lobbying members of Congress, especially those from the centrist Christian Democratic Party, and hinting about excommunication. \n"What should not be done is to opt for solutions that imply the destruction of the notion of the family," Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, the archbishop of Santiago, wrote in a pastoral letter called "Let No Man Tear Asunder," issued in June. \n"Many countries have done precisely that," he added, but "their experience demonstrates that introducing divorce is not the right road," he wrote. \nAfter General Augusto Pino-chet's dictatorship ended in 1990, four unsuccessful attempts were made in this socially conservative nation to give the Civil Marriage Code its first major overhaul since the 1880s. The lower house of Congress finally approved a divorce bill in 1997, and after more than five years of hesitation, the Senate voted last month, 33-13, to take up a committee's recommendation in favor of the bill. \nIn an interview here, a legal adviser to the national conference of Catholic bishops, Jorge Morales Retamal, said church leaders were resigned to losing the battle. Their focus now, he said, is to mitigate the damage and to ensure that the law incorporates provisions that they want, like civil recognition of religious weddings and the "no divorce" option, which the law's authors strongly oppose. \n"If you say you respect freedom of religion, why shouldn't the law let us marry for life if that is what we desire?" Morales said. "It's an insurmountable contradiction." \nIn the absence of divorce, Chileans have traditionally resorted to subterfuge to get out of unhappy marriages, including women who seek to be declared widows after their husbands leave them. The most popular tool, though, is civil annulment, which requires a couple to go to a court and say their marriage violated the law -- for instance, that neither of them lived in the jurisdiction where they wed. \nWitnesses to a wedding have also been known to misspell their names so that the couple will have grounds for an annulment. While some judges refuse to hear such cases out of religious convictions, most rule that the marriage never formally existed. \nMore than 5,000 annulments are granted annually. Beneficiaries include President Ricardo Lagos and even some legislators who have expressed doubts about the bill. \nSome supporters of divorce contend that the annulment process discriminates against poor or uneducated couples who cannot afford lawyers, and, indeed, the beneficiaries are overwhelmingly from the middle and upper classes. \nChurch leaders seeking to have an effect on the new law want to broaden the grounds for annul-ment, though, which could have the effect of making an annulment easier to obtain than a divorce. \n"There are people who are saying that with all the obstacles they are trying to place on this law, we'd be better off with no divorce and continue with annulment," said Rosalba Todaro, a researcher at the Center for Women's Studies. \n"I don't agree, but since the Senate is more conservative than the House, there is a risk that the final result will be something quite different from what we have seen," she said.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
An Australian graduate student arrested for spying and expelled from North Korea last year said that he was threatened with a firing-squad execution and told not even US President Donald Trump could save his “sorry arse.” Among the crimes Alek Sigley was accused of committing was posting a picture of a toy tank on Instagram, which his interrogators told him was military espionage. Sigley, 30, was studying for a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang when he went missing in June last year, sparking alarm. A fluent speaker of Korean, he had written articles for several publications