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Domestic violence in China – BORGEN

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SAN DIEGO, California – China is currently one of the most economically productive countries on the international scene. The country benefits from significant improvements in its technology and its poverty rate. However, there is an epidemic that continues in the background: domestic violence. In China, around 40% of women experience domestic violence. In addition, around 10% of murders in China are the result of domestic violence. These incidents continue despite laws against domestic violence due to deep-rooted patriarchal norms in Chinese society. At present, the fight against domestic violence in China is a struggle of government responsibility and social change.

Effectiveness of Chinese law

China has established two statutes that prohibit domestic violence. These are the Marriage Law passed in 2001 and the Domestic Violence Law passed in 2015. The 2001 passage was the first to ban domestic violence in China. However, it did not include the details of the application and the reporting and prosecution mechanisms. Although the latest domestic violence law did. It included reporting mechanisms not only for victims, but also covered victim shelters, child support and custody, personal protection orders, and the role of schools in reporting domestic violence.

The 2015 passage had the potential for long-term societal change. Yet, to date, it has not been fully implemented due to the society’s emphasis on family harmony and bonding in China. Law enforcement can avoid deal with cases of domestic violence because they often see the problem as a “family affair” and therefore feel that it is not for them to intervene. Chinese society and government also attach great importance to family harmony and social stability. This means that each person fulfills their role in their family through sacrifice.

This often means that a woman has to sacrifice her happiness for the stability of the family. Even within the 2015 law, one of the first articles states: “Family members should help each other, love and live in harmony, and fulfill family obligations. This much coveted notion often trumps the safety of a victim in cases of domestic violence, as the first actions of law enforcement in business normally tend towards conflict resolution or a written warning instead of an initial separation. Unfortunately, this only encourages violence and conflict and often discourages women from seeking help in cases of domestic violence. According to Lin Shuang, a widespread anti-domestic violence activist, many women meet 30 instances violence before deciding to seek help from the police.

Where is the domestic violence in China?

Domestic violence occurs all over China, but it is more prevalent in rural areas. Of the 40% of women in China who experience domestic violence, the highest proportion live in rural areas. Despite the will of the government efforts to eradicate poverty, rural China still has the highest poverty rates and, therefore, has higher risk factors for domestic violence.

In a public health study conducted by BMC on married, rural-to-urban migrant workers (who mainly reside in rural areas), it was found that their low social status and poverty were the highest risk factors for intimate partner violence. Additional studies have shown that lower education levels and low socioeconomic status, especially of male heads of household, are higher risk factors for domestic violence. This is due to the fact rural areas have less access domestic violence resources due to their geographic isolation. Rural areas also tend to stick strictly to traditional gender values. Some of these values ​​include young marriage, the fact that women stay at home and that husbands are the heads of the household. Because these values ​​are so highly regarded, cases of domestic violence remain largely ignored in impoverished rural areas.

Changing tides

While domestic violence persists in China, its most important and effective fighter is the social movement and digitization. Since the introduction of social media, China has seen several cases that have brought domestic violence to the forefront of the societal conversation. For example, in 2011, Kim Lee, the American wife of “Crazy English” mogul Li Yang posted pictures of her injuries on Weibo and exposed violence she suffered under her husband. Her post went viral and gave momentum to their 18-month legal battle, which ended with Lee securing custody of her children and over $ 2 million in child support.

Lee described the difficulties in obtaining a medical examination for prosecution and how law enforcement failed to show active investment in his welfare and justice throughout the process. This case was extremely influential because it exposed the flaws in the Chinese legal system. It has also helped to focus public discourse on typically “taboo” topics.

The little vaccine against domestic violence

Digitization is also useful in gaining ground for social movements against domestic violence. During the initial COVID-19 lockdown in Wuhan, social worker Guo Jing initiated the Anti-Domestic Violence Small Vaccine campaign. This campaign offered support groups for women through WeChat to discuss the pandemic and how it has personally affected them. The group also wrote and published a public letter. The letter discouraged domestic violence throughout the lockdown and encouraged others to speak out. Through their platform, they have also mobilized others to contribute essays and questions to their social media pages in order to continue the fight against domestic violence. Through their efforts, they have racked up 8.3 million views and over 700 comments on their content. Their movement has renewed the conversation around domestic violence and continues to make important social changes.

Hopefully stories like Kim Lee’s will continue to surface in the media. Chinese women will see a change in the way their culture and power structures treat them. The political and governmental responsibility for domestic violence in China begins with the widespread declaration that it is a pervasive and unsolved problem. Through improved communication and technology, these statements frequently challenge Chinese society to make progress in addressing domestic violence.

– Hariana Sethi
Photo: Flickr


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