Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The market for divorce

Tyler Cowen at MR links to a NY Times story about a divorce themed trade fair in Italy: Divorce Trade Fair Shows Changing Italian Culture
It notes that until recently divorce was a repugnant transaction in Italy. "Italy ratified divorce only in 1974 in a referendum, and critics complain that Italian legislators have not kept up with changing times. "

A much more aggressive component of the market for divorce is reported by the Times of London in a story from Japan. Sex, lies and splitting up: Want to dump a troublesome husband, or unsuitable boyfriend? Just call Osamu Tomiya and his team of splitter-uppers...

The article focuses on "Osamu Tomiya — a member of a peculiarly Japanese profession, part-private investigator, part-prostitute, known as wakaresase-ya — the “splitter-uppers”.
The function of the wakaresase-ya is the direct opposite of a dating agency: with great ingenuity, and the right fee, they will prise apart human relationships. Do you have a troublesome ex-boyfriend who won’t leave you alone? A beloved son who is getting engaged to an unsuitable girl? A dead-loss employee who refuses to take the hint and retire? All of these difficult situations can be resolved by the splitter-uppers.
The broken-hearted ex will be visited by the girl’s “new boyfriend”, a muscular gangster-type who explains why he would be wise to nurse his broken heart alone. The undesirable daughter-in-law-to-be will be lured into a drunken one-night stand with a handsome and mysterious man who appears from nowhere — photographs of their tryst will find their way to her fiancĂ©. The stubborn employee will find himself confronted with evidence of gambling debts, or nights in massage parlours — and resign to avoid embarrassment. In each case, the dirty work — of threatening, seducing and investigating — has been done by a splitter-upper.
But most common of all are complications surrounding marriages. In Japan, the idea of a “no-fault” divorce has never caught on and when a marriage breaks down, it is helpful to be morally in the right. When it comes to maintenance, division of common property and custody of children, the betrayed partner is at a great advantage over the betrayer. And this is where the splitter-uppers come in.
For a wife who wants shot of her husband, it would be disastrous just to own up to a long-term lover and throw herself on the mercy of the courts. Instead, she hires someone such as Mr Tomiya, a 40-year-old former sushi chef, to set up the honeytrap that will put her husband in the wrong and enable her to go before the judge as the injured party, with photographs to prove it."

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