Local Laws Tackling Domestic Violence

In 1995, a woman in Hunan Province was killed by her husband. In a letter found in her pocket, the woman described how she had been maltreated by her husband throughout their 19 years of marriage.

She said that he had often beaten her unconscious. When she asked the village committee for help, it suggested that she complain to the local police. But at the police station she was told that the police never interfered in domestic disputes unless somebody was killed.

Domestic violence is a common problem all over the world, and China is joining the ranks of those countries which have enacted legislation to stop this alarming situation. The Resolution on Preventing Domestic Violence passed and implemented by the People’s Congress of Hunan Province has become China’s first local law in relation to this problem.

The term “domestic violence” does not occur in any national law yet. However, the resolution passed by Hunan Province has given it a legal definition, which will be useful for other legislators in the future.

Domestic violence refers to savage acts of inflicting mental, physical or sexual injury on family members by means of beating, binding and confinement, according to the resolution. Public security and procuratorial organs, social groups and judicial bodies are regarded as the main instruments of carrying out the resolution. This is considered an important characteristic and the core of the resolution. Five of the 13 articles of the resolution explain the duties of the four organizations, which will be investigated for negligence if they fail to do their duty to stop family violence and thus promote social harmony.

The resolution is based on the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, the Criminal Law, the Law on the Protection of Juveniles, the Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests and the Penal Code Concerning Public Security.

Wang Xingjuan, head of the State Anti-Domestic-Violence Working Group, says that since 1996 all the country’s 13 provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and counties have worked out and issued local regulations on anti-family-violence. Before a national law is enacted, local governments can make local regulations to punish domestic violence in their areas on the basis of their actual situations, and meanwhile promote the setting up of a national law, said Wang.

Analysts with All-China Women’s Federation said that law enforcement agencies are hampered by an absence of clear legal guidelines in this regard.

The resolution enacted by Hunan has clearly spelled out the responsibilities of law-enforcement agencies. This is a big step forward in the nationwide effort to stamp out domestic violence.

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