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Local Laws Adopted to Tackle Domestic Violence
Victims trapped in the nightmare of domestic violence are now in a better position to seek legal protection in some parts of the country thanks to the introduction of local laws and regulations.

According to sources with the All-China Women's Federation, 10 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have adopted laws and regulations to curb and ultimately bring a stop to domestic violence.

Changsha, capital of Central China's Hunan Province, is now seeing the improvements being brought about as a result of its introduction of China's first regulation on domestic violence in 1996.

According to a survey from the local women's federation there, complaint letters from local people reveal that there has been a decline in domestic violence.

Statistics indicate that among the complaint letters from Hunan Province to the federation in 1999, 30.7 percent were about family violence. In 2000, however, the figure declined to 18.5 percent, and further dropped to 13.3 percent last year.

Lawmakers across the country have drafted local regulations to protect vulnerable people, most often women, children and the aged, according to a recent report in the Beijing-based China Women's News.

The revised marriage law which took effect last year specifies severe punishment for violators.

The provinces of Sichuan in Southwest China, Liaoning in Northeast China, Shaanxi and Qinghai in Northwest China, Jiangsu in East China and the municipalities of Tianjin in North China and Chongqing in Southwest China have enacted detailed regulations against domestic violence.

Yet it remains one of the most serious problems facing women and children in the country. Recent statistics reveal that some 20 percent of Chinese families are still troubled by different forms of home violence, according to a Xinhua News Agency report.

But it is nonetheless still unusual to find victims turning to the law to bring an end to violence in their homes.

According to another survey covering the entire country, only 17.8 percent of the victims of family violence turn to legal agencies for help and only 16.5 percent of those known to practice violence are punished.

A Chinese saying is still deeply rooted in the minds of the general public -- as well as of law enforcement officials -- that it's difficult for even the best judge to form a judgment on domestic disputes. This attitude dissuades victims from making their cases public, and makes law enforcement officials are reluctant to handle cases of domestic violence.

Experts are calling on the general public to raise their level of legal awareness and are suggesting that communities and medical services work together to put a stop to domestic violence by making it easier for people to get access to psychological and legal information about domestic violence.

(China Daily August 9, 2002)

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