Compulsory pre-marital health check-up in NE China creates controversy
Legislators in northeast China's Heilongjiang province have decided to "restore" the traditional practice of compulsory pre-marital physical check-ups, giving rise to a heated debate, according to Beijing Daily Messenger.
Some say that restoring the practice is retrogressive.
But there are doubts that the old practice will have any effect. The provincial civil affairs department in Heilongjiang has pledged not to enforce the system because the newly revised Heilongjiang Regulations governing the Health Protection of Mothers and Children runs counter to the Managerial Regulations on Marriage Registration.
In the past, a pre-marital health check-up was prerequisite in obtaining a marriage permit in China.
The newly revised regulations stipulate that all men and women must have have compulsory health examinations in AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea and leprosy before marriage.
It can be personally decided on whether to have check for other diseases.
Since the Managerial Regulations on Marriage Registration were published on October 1, 2003, the rate of pre-marital physical check-ups had plummeted.
The rate was less than 10 percent nationwide in 2004, and was as low as one percent in some places.
A district health center for women and children has discovered three cases of syphilis in fetuses in the five months since a voluntary health check-up system was adopted in the province.
The provincial health department distributed the Heilongjiang Regulations governing the Health of Mothers and Children to its grass-roots departments on July 20.
Local residents were quoted as saying that some government departments want to use compulsory pre-marital physical check-up as a means to "seek gain in disguise".
However, Li Ying, a resident in Heilongjiang, was quoted as saying that the personal health of people who plan to get married varies. Those who have little education are not willing to have pre-marital physical check-ups. The compulsory check-up will help to raise the rate of pre-marital physical examinations.
Chi Guo, also a citizen of Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang, was quoted as saying that it would be a violation of privacy if compulsory physical examination were introduced.
"This runs counter to China's respect for privacy."
He said that if the check-up is made to be a free public service, then the number of people willing to have pre-marital physical check-ups will increase dramatically.
Wei Guangfu, a researcher with the Civil Affairs Bureau of Heilongjiang, was cited as saying that his department was not aware of the revision of the regulations which do not include the opinions and suggestions from the department, so the feasibility of the regulations is still open to question.
He said that calling off the compulsory check-ups was progressive, and that their restoration will leave people an impression of "system retrogression".
In the national capital of Beijing, the local health bureau said that the number of people who registered with the civil affairs department for obtaining marriage permits and had pre-marital health checks dropped drastically in 2004, but the incidence of genital diseases and birth defects uncovered went up sharply.
The incidence of birth defects reached 13.49 per thousand in the Chinese capital?