Thursday, November 18, 2004

Chilean Divorce, Finally
Today, divorce was finally made legal in Chile. The law was first proposed 10 years ago, and only just made it through the senate. The first thing this made me think of was my host mother, and how happy I hope she is. If you read the BBC article, you'll note that it says before a divorce will be granted, a mutually consenting couple will have a year-long separation period, and if the couple is not mutual in seeking the divorce, the separation/waiting period will be three years. While I'm sure this seems excessive to many people, I think most of the people in Chile who have been wanting a divorce for many more years than that will think it's quite reasonable in the grand scheme of things. My host mother, for instance, had been separated from her husband for at least 5 years at the time I met her. Her husband lived in an entirely different city, hours away, and only saw his sons ocassionally on holidays. They lived entirely separate lives. She had a boyfriend who also had three children and was also separated long-term from his legal wife. Neither of them considered it at all strange that they would be dating each other while still married to other people, because they didn't have any choice. When my parents came to visit, one of the interesting cross-lingual conversations we had was about how if my host mother and her boyfriend ever wanted to get married for real, they'd have to move to another country, get divorces only legitimate in that country, and then remarry, and it still wouldn't have been legal in Chile. I wonder if they're going to get married now.

The NPR report on it was also interesting, particularly in its exploration of the deeper reason that the Church is so upset about the whole thing. One woman interviewed mentions that the Church's argument that this will hurt women and children because it will encourage men to abandon their families is totally out of touch with reality, because, as seen above, the lack of legal divorce in Chile has not prevented married couples from breaking up anyway. In fact, legalizing divorce will now make alimony and child-support enforceable, which would be a huge improvement.

All in all, I think this is an excellent thing for Chile, and I am very glad to see that the law finally, finally, finally got passed. I rather wish I hadn't fallen out of contact with my host family. I wish them all the best.

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