Following on from "Seven Reasons for Divorce', which discussed the behaviours which could inspire a man to divorce his wife, I thought it would be a good idea to post about the divorce temples of Mantokuji (in Kōzuke Province) and Tōkeiji (in North Kamakura), where women, who during the Edo period had no legal right to initiate a divorce, could could go if they wanted to leave their marriage.
The divorce temples offered a means, sanctioned by the state, by which, as long as certain criteria were met, women could negotiate a divorce. A divorce, along with a marriage, amongst the ruling classes was considered a political matter, and permission had to be sought from the government before either could take place. For everyone else, however, both were considered private matters. A man had simply to issue his wife with a writ to divorce her (or in the case of areas of Japan where a go-between was required, that party had only to do so for the matter to be final). A woman, on the other hand, had to persuade her husband to issue her with one, or have her family persuade him, if she wished to end the marriage. If her husband was unwilling to issue one, the only option available to her was to approach a divorce temple, in the hope that the male temple officials could negotiate a divorce on her behalf.
Basically, the temple's role was to persuade the husband to issue a divorce letter. The officials relied heavily upon the temple's reputation and power to impress upon the husband his duty to release his wife. Should the officials fail, they then approached the shogunate's Magistrates of Temples and Shrines to force the husband to comply, though this was seen as a last resort.
Between 1762 and 1803, Mantokuji's process was as follows. When the woman arrived at the temple, her hair was cut. She was then expected to serve as a nun for three years, after which time her husband was expected to issue her with a writ of divorce. If he refused to do so, the magistrates were involved. This added a further two years to her term, but after completing the full five years her husband would be ordered to issue the writ under threat of imprisonment. From 1804, the length of service as a nun was reduced to twenty-five months, and a woman could leave the temple early if her husband agreed to issue a writ before her full term had been served. She was then free to remarry. While in service, the woman was required to carry out the duties of a nun; the acquisition of a temple divorce relied upon a good report being issued at the end of her term concerning her behaviour during her stay.
Tōkeiji's process was slightly different in that once the magistrates became involved the woman would have to serve the full term, regardless of whether or not her husband issued a writ during that time.
One way to speed up the process, if a husband was reluctant to issue a writ, was for the woman's family to offer him a cash settlement. Given that the daily expenses of the woman, such as food and clothing, would also have to be met by her family during her term within the temple, divorce was an expensive matter.
What about the children? Well, women had no legal right to custody. If the husband agreed, the wife would be allowed to keep female children, but not males. If the wife was pregnant during the divorce process, the baby when born, if it were a boy, would have been taken by its father. With the husband's consent, a female baby could be given to its mother.
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