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Experts highlight breakthroughs of 1st domestic violence legislation

(xinhua) Updated : 2015-08-31

China's first draft law on domestic violence, currently under deliberation by top legislature, has made various breakthroughs toward bringing the social-cultural taboo under scrutiny of law, according to legal experts.

Domestic violence has long remained in the shadows in China, where culture holds that family conflicts are embarrassing private matters. Only in recent years have Chinese people begun to examine the issue.

The draft law against domestic violence offers many solutions for those suffering domestic abuse, including establishing a writ of habeas corpus, obligating certain groups of people to report domestic violence to the police, and annulling abusing parents' eligibility as guardians.

Cao Dongmei, director of a committee on family law at the Anhui Lawyers Association, said it is the first time a law obligates staff at schools, kindergartens and medical institutions to report to police if they find or suspect domestic violence.

Cao said it sends a clear message to the public that the battle against domestic violence is the shared responsibility of each family, as well as the entire society.

Domestic violence is no private matter, and wherever it happens, every citizen has an obligation to stop it, Cao said.

Li Dajin, head of Beijing Lawyers Association, said because domestic violence is secretive, schools and hospitals are the best environments to observe whether a student or a patient is a victim of domestic violence. Those who work in such environments should help bear the responsibility.

Explicitly obliging school and hospital staff to report domestic violence does not exclude other groups from intervening. Be it neighbors or passers-by, if abuse is noticed, they have every right and a social responsibility to help.

In 2013, two Nanjing girls, aged 1 and 3, starved to death after their mother, Le Yan, a suspected drug addict, locked them in their home for days.

Their neighbors and community organizations had known that the mother repeatedly locked the girls up. Unfortunately, their awareness of the mother's abuse did not prevent the tragedy.

The fact the draft brings community organizations into the picture is also a big breakthrough, Li said.

The draft dictates police should not only present an official letter of rebuke to the abuser, but also send a copy to community organizations so they can make follow-up visits and keep an eye on the abuser.

"It fits into China's conditions. Community organizations are the closest to each family, and they have already done a great deal in mediating family conflict. The draft amendment has awarded them an explicit legal role in the entire anti-domestic-violence system," Li said.

Cao believed, by making the revocation of custodianship more practical, the draft amendment has also created a stronger protection net for minors.

China's law on protecting minors dictates if a parent does not fulfill parental duties or harms legitimate rights of minors, they are disqualified for custody.

However, Cao said, because "the harm of legitimate rights" is too vague, the clause is seldom applied and few parents have had custody revoked since the law took effect.

The draft amendment on domestic violence specified "harm" as violence against minors, which clarifies conditions under which custodianship will be stripped off.

Cao said with the clarification, the law protecting minors will no longer be "dormant".

Although, the draft law defines domestic violence as beating, forcefully restraining, mutilating and depriving freedom, the public expects greater breakthroughs of the coverage of the law.

Much has been discussed about whether spiritual and sexual abuse and financial deprivation should be defined as domestic violence.

Liu Li, a judge in the Olympic village court in Beijing's Chaoyang district, said physical violence dominates domestic violence cases in China statistically, therefore, the legislation will first address this form of violence.

However, the draft amendment has created space for further interpretation of domestic violence, as the current definition includes the phrase of "among other forms".

Liu said, along with progresses of judicial practices, the law will improve and greater breakthroughs are likely.