Help needed to protect lesbians from domestic violence

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An NGO has called for more support and vigilance for lesbians after the Chinese mainland's first survey revealed that they suffer the most from domestic violence.


The three-year survey, carried out between 2007 and 2009, was conducted by Common Language, a Beijing-based support group for lesbian, bisexual women and trans-gendered people (LBT).

Xu Bin, director of Common Language, said because of their "special lifestyle", lesbians and bisexual women face potentially multiple perpetrators of domestic violence: their parents, their female partners and in some cases, their husbands or boyfriends.

According to Common Language, 70.3 percent of the 202 interviewees in Beijing suffered mental violence while 42.1 percent were victims of physical violence.

"Compared with straight women, LBT women are more often the victims of domestic violence from their parents or relatives. As many as 50 percent of our interviewees said their family members had used extreme ways to persuade them to become straight and 80 percent received violent responses after they came out of the closet, " Xu said.

The survey, funded by the Anti-Domestic Violence Network of the China Law Society (ADVN), an NGO founded in 2000 to protect women's rights, found 75 percent of lesbian and bisexual women in Beijing were victims of domestic violence.

Liu Xiaojuan, a staff member from the ADVN, told METRO on Monday that she hadn't expected the rate to be so high and said the ADVN will increase its efforts to help the women. It is estimated that at least 5 percent of women in Beijing are LBT women.

This is because most LBT women "choose to leave their hometown and stay in a more modern and more open society," Xu explained, adding the city is failing to provide enough help and support to those women.

The ADVN recently announced that 84.1 percent of straight women who suffer domestic violence will turn to public organizations for help.

The top three organizations are women federations, police and neighborhood committees.

However, the situation is different with LBT women, because they rarely turn to these organizations for assistance.

"Most of them don't want to go public and they are very sensitive about their identity, they'd rather keep their pain to themselves," Xu said.

Common Language and Beijing Lalabar are the only two NGOs in Beijing that provide specific assistance to LBT women.

However, due to limited financial support, they can only organize weekly meetings to help people share their experience with each other.

A 24-year-old lesbian, who preferred to be identified as Zha La, said on Monday they need government support and attention badly.

"I was very lucky when I told my parents about my situation two years ago. Unlike some of my friends' parents, they agreed with my decision peacefully," Zha said.

"However, the risk of domestic violence is not just from parents. When two lesbians have conflicts, there's no law to protect the victims," she said.

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