On Sunday, December 27, the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee passed a landmark law against domestic violence, offering legal protection to millions of abuse victims for the first time in history.
The legislation, which came after a week of heated debate, was passed along with the country’s first anti-terrorism bill and an amendment to the population and family planning law – i.e. the ‘two-child policy.’
According to a recent article from Xinhua News Agency, the PRC’s official press agency, domestic abuse is defined as “physical, psychological and other harm inflicted by family members with beatings, restraint or forcible limits on physical liberty, recurring invectives and verbal threats listed as examples.”
Under the law, victims can apply for personal protection and a court must decide whether to grant the order within 72 hours. Urgent cases may see a result in less than 24 hours. If the abuser violates the protection order, he or she will be fined up to RMB1,000 and/or detained for 15 days. Serious offenses will be tried accordingly.
The legislation includes protection for those who are not related but living together, namely, guardianship and foster-care relationships. Same-sex couples, however, are not protected under the law – a reflection of China’s longstanding refusal to acknowledge homosexuality on the mainland.
For years, human rights activists and women’s groups have criticized China’s dearth of domestic violence laws, citing the inordinate number of abuse cases each year. In 2014, Xinhua reported 23,000 cases in Zhejiang province alone. And according to the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF), nearly 25 percent of women in China have suffered from violent abuse in their marriage at some point.
Previously, victims who reported ill treatment to police would be turned away under the traditional belief that family matters should be dealt with privately. Discussing any kind of abuse in public was – and still is – considered embarrassing and a ‘loss of face.’
China’s new law underlines the specific responsibilities of the government, social organizations and educational institutions in regard to domestic violence, including how media outlets should report on the problem going forward.
[Image via BBC]