Women are now more aware of their domestic rights thanks to the recently amended Marriage Law and are demanding better law enforcement.
New findings in Guangdong Province have revealed that women are increasingly resorting to institutional and legal assistance, especially against violence and infidelity.
The Guangzhou Women's Federation (GMF) in the provincial capital so far this year has received 506 complaints from women about being beaten, abused or even driven out of their own homes by their husbands, up 14 percent from 444 such cases in the same period last year.
China's amended Marriage Law, which makes domestic violence illegal, was adopted by the National People's Congress earlier this year and put into effect on April 28.
It also outlawed bigamy and prohibited married people from cohabiting with anyone other than their spouses.
The draft of the amendments was publicized for public discussion in October 2000.
"The women's awareness of their marital rights certainly increases fast since then," said Zheng Yang, one of Guangzhou's researchers and member of the Guangzhou Municipal People's Political Consultative Conference.
However, the general public should also be aware that domestic violence remains one of the issues of concern and women demand strict enforcement of the Marriage Law, Zheng said.
Husbands having affairs was the second most common complaint, according to the joint research carried out by the conference and the GWF.
Of the 22 divorced women randomly selected for the study, all cited their husbands' infidelity in their divorce cases.
Almost half of them also complained about unfair treatment at their husbands' hands in the division of family assets during the divorce proceedings.
"Violent or unfaithful husbands are morally unforgivable. But it is unforgivable that society cannot provide effective legal support for vulnerable women," Zheng said.
The country needs to adjust its criminal law and update its judicial explanation of bigamy, researchers said.
Launched in March, the research focused on how to better protect the legal rights and interests of women.
(China Daily 06/26/2001)