China domestic violence laws offer hope, concerns

China domestic violence laws offer hope, concerns

SBS World News Radio: A landmark domestic violence law takes effect in China this month.

A landmark domestic violence law takes effect in China this month.

For the first time, it defines domestic violence and gives victims more support and options for legal action.

But legal experts say it is unclear, and they have pressed leaders currently sitting at China's National People's Congress for urgent clarification.

Gao Xiaojun wants to put out in the open something usually kept behind closed doors in China.

The legal secretary was a victim of domestic violence, assaulted by her ex-husband, and she believes it is time to talk about such things.

(Translated) "The violence was quite severe, because he was strong and healthy while I was rather thin and weak at the time."

Gao Xiaojun says she initially blamed herself, thinking maybe it was her fault her husband was being abusive.

But when the attacks became unbearable, she says, she finally left him.

(Translated) "There were bruises on my neck from strangling, and a swollen bump on my head."

Gao Xiaojun says she wishes she had had the courage to leave sooner.

Now, thanks to a new law, many other victims in China might.

A landmark domestic violence law takes effect in China this month, the first of its kind in the country.

Domestic violence is being defined to include physical and psychological abuse, to apply to unmarried cohabiting couples and, crucially, to let victims apply for restraining orders.

Tingting Chen is the women's-empowerment program officer at the Asia Foundation.

She says many people advocating women's rights in China are celebrating the introduction of the laws.

"Having this law will bring about more government support and funding support to help institutions improve their capacity to help victims."

The China All Women's Federation says one in four married women experience abuse, but only 40,000 to 50,000 cases are reported nationwide each year.

Tingting Chen says the law will encourage more victims to speak out but the cultural stigma will take generations to lift.

"Many still see domestic violence as a shame. Not just for the abuser, but even more so for the victim and the family."

Women's legal aid lawyer Lu Xiaoquan says, while the law is good in principle, it is less so in practice.

He says the relevant departments still lack crucial training and the judicial process is unclear.

Last week, his firm submitted a report to government leaders now gathered at the country's National People's Congress, asking for urgent clarification.

Some questions raised include details about the types of evidence required for victims to prove incidents, as well as the distinction for whether cases fall under criminal or civic courts.

(Translated)"Even though there is a great law there, if our law executor and judicial person do not follow it strictly, then it's an empty law. It wouldn't help solve anything in real life."

The law also fails to mention sexual violence or abusive financial control.

Those alleged flaws are just some of the reasons Gao Xiaojun says she believes her fight is far from over.

She says she is no longer a victim but is actively involved in campaigning against domestic violence, online and offline.

(Translated) "Violence in marriage is unforgivable. It's gender inequality."



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