2020-06-23 10:15:37

The city of Yiwu in the eastern Zhejiang province has introduced a landmark provision allowing residents to check their partners’ domestic violence records, China Women’s News reported Monday.

Under the new system, an individual can retrieve information from their partner’s criminal record related to domestic violence, personal safety protection orders, or administrative punishments from the public security bureau, the news outlet reported, citing a notice from local authorities.

The provision, which will go into effect July 1, is aimed at reducing and preventing domestic violence, and will only include violations reported since 2017, the notice said.

“In most cases, people don’t find out their partner is violent until after they’re married,” Zhou Danying, vice president of Yiwu’s chapter of the All-China Women’s Federation, told Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper. “The inquiry system allows a partner to know whether the other party has a domestic violence record before getting married.”

Zheng Shiyin, a gender expert, told Sixth Tone that although Yiwu’s initiative is clearly good, the impact of such a system may be limited.

“The current system only recognizes domestic violence records issued by the official channels,” said Zheng. “However, in reality, such records are often hard to issue. For example, to apply for a personal safety protection order from the court, one needs to provide quite a lot of evidence, which is often hard for victims to collect.”

According to a study published by Beijing-based nonprofit Weiping, and which Zheng was also involved with, nearly half of the 91 applications for personal safety protection orders filed in Shanghai between March 2016 and September 2019 were unsuccessful: 34% were rejected and 12% were withdrawn. In addition, public security bureaus are often reluctant to file domestic violence complaints, making it difficult for survivors to pursue legal action.

Nevertheless, Zheng calls Yiwu’s domestic violence inquiry system “a good start.”

“I hope the system can be adapted in more regions and encourage authorities to be more active in accepting domestic violence cases,” she said.

Since China’s landmark anti-domestic violence law went into effect in 2016, authorities have backed various attempts to curb domestic violence. In January, the All-China Women’s Federation and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate jointly proposed a new reporting mechanism that would require the two bodies to cooperate and share information in domestic violence cases.

However, many victims of domestic violence struggle in seeking protection due to insufficient implementation of the domestic violence law, leading some to seek help on social media instead. Policies included in China’s newly passed civil code — such as a “cool-off period” requiring divorce-seeking couples to wait 30 days before their request is approved — have provoked wide criticism for potentially putting domestic violence survivors at risk.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Neil Webb/Ikon Images/People Visual)