China / Society

Top court to clarify law on domestic violence

By Hou Liqiang ( Updated: 2014-02-28 14:24

China's top court will issue a judicial explanation later this year on crimes involving abusive treatment, injury or murder of family members, to clear up vague legal terminology and standardize sentences.

At a news conference on Thursday, Xue Shulan, deputy chief judge of the No 1 criminal court at the Supreme People's Court, said the vague language has made it difficult to decide who's at fault in domestic violence cases, and resulted in little consistency in sentencing.

According to the current provisions in China's Criminal Law, those found guilty of abusing family members under "serious circumstances" are sentenced to two years in jail or placed under surveillance for the same period. If they seriously injure or kill their victims, they face sentences ranging from two to seven years.

However, Xue said the law at present does not properly define "serious circumstances".

Xue said that a judicial explanation will be issued later in the year, providing a definition of this term and ensuring that those who abuse family members are properly punished by the law.

Meanwhile, he said there is little consistency in the sentences handed down to those victims of domestic violence who fight back against their abusers and kill or seriously injure them.

"Some local courts give a three-year sentence, some give 10 years, and some give a life sentence," Xue explained.

"In the judicial interpretation, we will also standardize the lenient sentences the courts can give," Xue said.

A draft of the judicial explanation has been written but research is still being conducted, he said, adding that the final explanation will hopefully be published before the first half of the year is up.

Sun Jungong, spokesman for the Supreme People's Court, said there is violence in approximately 24.7 percent of Chinese families and almost 10 percent of intentional homicide cases are connected with violence in the family.

Yao Yue, director of the Maple Women's Psychological Counseling Center in Beijing, said the judicial explanation for such vague clauses will be "quite significant" in protecting the victims of violence in the family, describing the pending judicial explanation as "great progress".

Yao said the important thing is to find and root out the sources of violence in families.

She recommended psychotherapy for those who abuse members of their family, since psychological problems are often at the root of the violence. Without such help, the problem may continue unchecked.

"Many women don't dare to bring charges against their husband because they don't have anywhere safe to go," Yao said.

"They have to stay at home and may get more abuse, after which they may lose control of themselves and kill their husband."

Those victims of family violence should be offered temporary shelter and be offered medical, psychological and legal assistance there," Yao said.

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