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Proposed law to curb domestic abuse

Proposed law to curb domestic abuse

BEIJING - Victims of domestic violence will be able to file for court injunctions if a proposal by the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) is adopted by the top legislature during its planned drafting of a new law.

Although injunctions are regularly applied in other countries, such as the United States, normally to protect women from being harassed, molested or assaulted by ex-partners, it is a new concept in the domestic legal system. But a few cities have already introduced it on a pilot basis.

Currently nine clauses in four laws -- such as the Marriage Law and the Law on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women -- address aspects of domestic violence. But the country has yet to draft an independent law to deal with the offence comprehensively.

Legislation on domestic violence is an important move to better protect the rights of women and children, Jiang Yue'e, head of the ACWF's department for women's rights and interests, told China Daily.

"Domestic violence is not only a severe violation of human rights, but it also leads to divorce, suicide and other social problems," Jiang said.

About 20 leading experts will gather in Beijing next month to discuss details of the federation's proposal, which could be used as a basis to draft the new domestic violence law, she said.

There is no timetable available for the new law.

Existing legal clauses on domestic abuse are flawed, Jiang said, citing as an example their failure "to spell out specific responsibilities of the public security bureaus or judicial departments in handling such cases, and what kind of protection victims can get".

The ACWF and its branches across the country receive more than 40,000 complaints about domestic violence each year, Jiang said, adding that it has always topped the list of complaints filed by women to her organization.

Statistics from the people's court of Beijing's Shunyi district showed that 25 percent of about 800 divorce cases it handled last year were related to domestic violence.

Injunctions -- court orders that require a party to do or not do certain things -- are a proven and effective way in other countries to protect victims of abuse, said Xiao Fei, a judge with Beijing's higher people's court.

An injunction can be a deterrent as it gives the police power to conduct an arrest if its terms are broken.

"It also safeguards the rights and interests of victims in divorce proceedings in terms of wealth division and child custody rights," Xiao said.

Jiang said domestic violence needs a broader legal definition. Currently, domestic violence legally does not cover divorced couples or unmarried couples living together, nor does it include sexual and mental abuse, a situation that the ACWF wants to change, she said.

The current law also puts victims at a disadvantage, according to a marriage lawyer.

It is difficult for victims to produce proof of abuse without physical injuries, such as bruises or scars, said Chen Wei, a lawyer who specializes in marriage at Beijing Yingke Law Firm.

Many Chinese people believe domestic violence is a private affair and are reluctant to intervene, she said.

"You cannot expect your neighbors to come out and tell the police that you are being abused," Chen said.

That is why the new draft law should improve the method of collecting evidence and free the victims from the burden of producing proof, Jiang said.

In addition, the new draft law on domestic violence should address a wider array of issues, including prevention, victim aid and punishment for perpetrators, she said.

Efforts have been made to tackle domestic violence. About 27 provinces and regions have regulations or policies covering domestic violence and forensic centers have been established in 21 provinces.

Many cities, including Tianjin, Shijiazhuang and Xuzhou, have opened shelters for victims, offering short-term accommodation, food and counseling services.

However, few people have turned to these organizations for help, said Guo Liping, director of a shelter in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province.

"We often receive calls from women asking whether they can come to our center to flee from abuse at home," Guo said. "But most of them never show up.

"Many victims still feel ashamed to talk about their experience. They are also not sure what others can do to help," Guo told China Daily.

Source: China Daily

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