China / Government

Draft law against domestic violence to include psychological harm, cover cohabitation

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-12-21 20:13

BEIJING - China's first domestic violence law may include emotional or psychological abuse and cover cohabitation in order to protect traditionally silent abuse victims, a new draft reads.

According to the draft, up for a second reading at the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee's bimonthly session, "the country prohibits any form of domestic violence."

Domestic violence is defined as physical or psychological harm inflicted by family members, including beatings, injuries, restraint or forcible limits on physical liberty as well as recurring verbal threats and abuse.

An earlier draft, submitted in August this year, included only physical abuse, but many lawmakers have since argued that the definition was too narrow, said Su Zelin, deputy director with the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee.

They also argued that the law should cover cohabitation, Su said, hence the second draft of the law stipulated in a supplementary article that those who are not related but live together are also subject to the new law.

China does not have a specialized law on family abuse, and the issue has remained in the shadows for a long time in a country where family conflicts are considered embarrassing private matters. As a result, victims are often afraid to speak out and, in many cases, are turned away by police.

Attitudes to domestic violence changed in 2011, when Kim Lee, wife of celebrity entrepreneur Li Yang, posted pictures of her bruised face on Sina Weibo and accused Li of beating her up. In 2013, Kim was granted a divorce, alimony and compensation on the grounds of domestic violence.

According to the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), nearly 25 percent of Chinese women have suffered violence in their marriage, but the federation receives only 40,000 to 50,000 complaints each year.

Victims who approach the ACWF for help are mainly women, children and the elderly, and 88.3 percent of cases in 2014 involved abuse by husbands of their wives, 7.5 percent by parents or a parent of their children, and 1.3 percent by children to their parents.

Personal protection orders

According to the draft, victims and those in immediate danger can file for a personal protection order that the court must grant or deny within 72 hours. In urgent cases, decisions must be made the same day.

Police, women's federations and social service organs, in addition to close relatives, would all be able to apply for orders for those with no or limited civil capacity or those who cannot do so themselves as a result of physical force or threats.

Once the order is granted, courts may prohibit the abuser from harassing, stalking or contacting the applicant, order the abuser to move out of the home or adopt various other measures to protect the applicant.

Should the abuser violate the protection order, they may be fined up to 1,000 yuan, detained for up to 15 days or face criminal charges in serious offences.

Protection for the vulnerable

The draft also sets out to enhance protection for particularly vulnerable groups: minors, elders, disabled people and pregnant or breastfeeding women as well as the critically ill will be entitled to special attention.

Police must notify civil affairs departments should they find that those with no or limited civil capacity have been harmed, or are under threat and are unattended, and escort them to temporary shelters, salvage services or welfare centers, the draft reads.

It also requires social workers, in addition to doctors and teachers, to report suspected abuse cases involving those with no or limited civil capacity. Should they fail to do so, the workers will be held liable in cases with serious consequences together with those in charge of the institutions concerned and their superior organs. Police will protect the privacy of whistleblowers.

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