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Maltreated Wives Prone to Crimes

Quite a lot of female criminals are survivors of domestic violence, the spread of which is posing an increasingly serious threat to social stability in China, legal experts and women's rights advocates say.

Women who were abused by their male partners or suffered from other kinds of domestic violence are more likely to hurt others as an outlet for their distress, said Rong Weiyi, a professor with the Chinese People's University of Public Security at a seminar on marriage and the family on Monday.

For example, 70 percent of the surveyed women criminals in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality had suffered from long-term family violence before they decided to take revenge towards their relatives and the society.

Statistics from the All-China Women's Federation also indicate that reported incidents of domestic violence rose by 25.4 percent between 1980 and 1990. The latest statistics show that some 30 percent of Chinese families suffer from the problem of domestic violence.

But it might be too early to draw a conclusion that family violence in China has become more severe, Rong argued. In the past, most battered women lacked courage to reveal their sufferings under the pressure of public opinion and without legal protection.

Statistics from the Maple Women's Psychological Counseling Center show that 36.92 percent of the calls received in March related to domestic violence and over half of the complainants were being beaten by their husbands.

The traditional conception that regards family violence as a private matter still disturbs the police and legislation departments, said Wang Xingjuan, a senior expert with the Beijing-based center.

Also, the difficulty that abused women have in finding shelter and achieving economic independence keeps them from starting divorce proceedings, she said.

Family violence can not be stopped until the victims get outside assistance to prevent escalation, Rong stressed. It is necessary to curb family violence the moment it shows itself.

In one case, a woman has tolerated being beaten by her husband for more than 20 years. She excuses him by thinking he is simply "bad tempered," but the beatings have got worse.

To effectively curb family violence, administrative rules and regulations are needed, and laws on criminal offences and civil affairs, Rong suggested.

She said more than 40 countries have laws and regulations on domestic violence. And many localities, such as Hunan Province, have similar regulations, all of which can be taken as references for drafting an independent law.

(China Daily June 5, 2002)

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