More solutions sought to end domestic violence

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Experts suggest providing psychological and social services

Beijing lawyer Yu Qi was not happy, despite successfully helping a woman who experienced domestic violence bring a lawsuit for divorce last year.

"The legal relationship between my client and that man ended, but the harm done to her did not," said Yu, from the Suzhi Law Firm.

"Her ex-husband came to her recently and tried to force her to remarry him. After she disagreed, he assaulted her again, fracturing a bone above one of her eyes."

Meanwhile, the home of Lamu, a Tibetan livestreaming host in Sichuan province, was set on fire by her former husband on Sept 14 and the woman died 16 days later from serious burns. Before the incident, she had endured domestic violence for years, before finally securing a divorce in June.

In April, a report issued by Equality, an NGO for women's rights established in 2014, said that from March 1, 2016, when China's Anti-Domestic Violence Law took effect, to Dec 31 last year, 1,214 people died in such cases.

On Nov 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Supreme People's Court, the nation's top court, said that over the past four years, 5,749 personal safety protection orders, similar to restraining orders in the West, had been granted nationwide.

In addition to highlighting the significance of banning domestic violence between family members, the top court said such incidents among people outside family relationships, including divorced and unmarried couples, must be stopped and victims should be granted permission to apply for protection orders.

Yu hailed the top court's clarification of the law, but said not enough orders-which are familiar to victims of domestic violence and the public-were being granted by courts nationwide.

She is more concerned with some of the law's other measures, such as the urgent provision of shelters for victims and the compulsory reporting mechanism. "These are little-known and their impact is very limited," Yu said.

Liu Yongting, a legal specialist from China Women's University, suggested that supplementary or specific regulations be drawn up to activate these measures promptly.

"The measures were shining examples when they were put into the law, so we have an obligation to make them play a role in remedying domestic violence," she said.

According to the law, victims can apply for personal safety protection orders from courts after experiencing domestic violence, or when they face such incidents, and courts should accept their applications.

In November, Zheng Xuelin, chief judge of the top court's No 1 Civil Division, said that to reduce the possibility of further harm being caused to victims, some courts nationwide have streamlined the process for accepting applications.

Liu Min, deputy chief judge of the division, compared the orders with a "firewall" and said that after they are granted, perpetrators of domestic violence are prohibited from harassing, following or touching victims and their close relatives. They also face being moved out of accommodations shared with their relatives.

However, Yu, the Beijing lawyer, who has specialized in handling cases of domestic violence for more than a decade, said it is too difficult for clients to apply for an order, "as many courts have very strict evidence reviews in such cases".

Some of her clients had trouble proving they had experienced violence or needed urgent help, because they bore no signs of harm, she said.

Liu Min said the top court has realized this difficulty, adding that some courts are cautious in granting orders, as they fear weak evidence might lead to perpetrators launching lawsuits over damage to their reputation.

She added, "We lower the bar for the standard of evidence from victims if we find they are likely experiencing domestic violence. We call for judges to help such victims collect evidence in accordance with the law to reduce their burden of proof."

Yu backed the top court's response, but suggested that clarification was needed for government agencies supervising the implementation of orders, "otherwise, the firewall may easily fall down."

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