Domestic violence casts an ugly shadow

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, November 17, 2011
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Numbers rising

The All-China Women's Federation received 51,171 complaints from women about domestic violence by their spouses in 2010, after seven years when complaints totaled 40,000 to 50,000 annually.

Photo shows spousal abuse in China in the past years. [Photos provided to China Daily]

Photo shows spousal abuse in China in the past years. [Photos/China Daily] 

"When we first began to calculate the number, a woman would only file a complaint after she was physically abused by her husband. But now, verbal and sexual abuses are also counted in," said Zhen Yan, vice-president of the federation.

"With the growth of legal consciousness, many women revealed their horrible experience to us in the hope of protecting their legal rights," she said.

According to the survey last year, 83.4 percent of people are aware that China has a special law to protect women's rights and interests, rising 9.6 percentage points from 2000. But the legal system does not protect the victims effectively, experts said.

"Previous laws and regulations concerning domestic violence are difficult to practice. They only demonstrate that our society and government are against such violence," Zhen said.

"That's why our federation is calling for a national law specially devoted to contain domestic violence, to clarify definitions of the offenses, pinpoint responsibilities of relevant departments and ensure the intensity of punishment of violators."

Mediate or abet?

During her nine months of agony and humiliation, Li called the police 10 times. At first, they would send a policeman to her home to find out what happened and make peace between the couple.

Later, Li said, as they kept receiving her phone calls, the police recognized her voice and refused to help anymore. They said it was inconvenient for them to get involved in family disputes.

"Chinese policemen in general think it's very common for a man to beat his wife and do not take such behavior as a form of violence," said Lu Xiaoquan, a lawyer and director of the research department of Beijing Zhongze Women's Legal Counseling and Service Center.

"This attitude determines that their approach to handling domestic violence cases is often unprofessional and unfair," he continued. "Some police officers even stand by the side of the offenders and treat them with indulgence. They don't realize that they have actually encouraged repeat violence."

In many cases, police officers acted as mediators, rather than interrogating both sides and taking a clear record of what happened. Even if they did, the record usually lacks critical information to prove that the victim had suffered domestic violence.

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