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​The first law against domestic violence in China

The first law passed in China against domestic violence is aimed at stopping physical and psychological abuse. According to the Xinhua agency, the legislation – which also applies to cohabiting couples – defines abuse as “Physical, psychological and other harm inflicted by family members with beatings, restraint or forcible limits on physical liberty, recurring invectives and verbal threats”. Victims and those in immediate danger can file for a personal protection order that the court must grant or deny within 72 hours. In urgent cases, decisions must be made within 24 hours. For those with no or limited civil capacity or those who cannot do so themselves as a result of physical force or threats the police, in addition to close relatives, women’s federations and social service organs, may apply for orders. The new law takes into account the statistics: according to the All-China Women’s Federation, a quarter of the female population has been subjected to domestic violence. Of the only 50,000 complaints received annually, 88.3 per cent involve husbands abusing their wives, 7.5 per cent concern parents abusing their children and 1.3 per cent, children abusing their parents. But these data would certainly be far higher if the situation in rural areas of the country was accounted for; here, traditional culture is still much stronger and complaints are fewer. In China even though domestic relations are considered a private affair, the collective sensitivity to violence is changing. An emblematic case was that of Li Yan, a young woman whose death sentence for the murder of her husband, who would beat and humiliate her, was suspended for two years by the Chinese court: if after 48 months Li Yan committed no further offence, her suspended death sentence would become a life sentence. The decision took into account the pressures brought to bear by the civil organizations fighting for women’s rights and would seem to indicate a change in the attitude to violence. 

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Dec. 11, 2019

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