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    Children Who Witness Domestic Violence Are Also Victims: China’s Top Court

    Chinese courts are expanding the scope of personal safety protection orders, the key pillar of China’s domestic violence law, to better protect minors.
    Nov 27, 2023#family#crime

    China’s Supreme Court has released a batch of “model cases” affirming that minors who witness domestic violence are also victims of domestic violence, in a move welcomed by legal experts. 

    The cases, published Monday, emphasizes that “psychological abuse” is also a form of domestic violence, and that minors who are abducted by parents without custody, for instance, should also be considered victims of domestic violence. 

    “It’s a great sign that the court is taking rules and regulations on paper and implementing them in actual judicial practice with detailed cases for reference,” Lu Xiaoquan, a lawyer at Beijing Qianqian Law Firm, which specializes in legal aid for victims of gender-based violence, told Sixth Tone. 

    In China, the Supreme Court regularly publishes model cases for lower courts to refer to when handling similar cases, although they are not binding. 

    Of the 10 model cases recently published by the Supreme Court, nine relate to issuing personal safety protection orders. Introduced by the Domestic Violence Law in 2016, personal safety protection orders bar an accused abuser from initiating contact with victims or living together.

    In one case, the court temporarily stripped an abusive divorced father of his custody rights as he regularly beat his son with wooden sticks, which caused serious injuries. The court also issued a protection order prohibiting the father from contacting the son.

    In its commentary on the case, the Supreme Court highlighted the importance of changing the custody of minors in domestic violence situations, as minors raised by a single parent “are highly dependent on their immediate dependents for study and life.” 

    In another case, a local court issued a protection order to a minor after the divorced father abducted his child from the mother, who had custody rights. The child was physically harmed by the father and also witnessed the father’s violence toward the mother. 

    Neither the domestic violence law nor the minors protection law explicitly identify minors who witness domestic violence as domestic violence victims. However, in recent years, provincial governments such as Guangdong and Jiangsu have pushed to have them deemed as such. 

    A March 2021 report from Equality, a gender equality advocacy group based in Beijing, found that just 6% of applicants for personal protection orders in Shanghai were minors. 

    “Child abduction is a nationwide problem,” Zhang Jing, deputy director of the marriage and family affairs committee at the Beijing Lawyers Association, told Sixth Tone. 

    “Although it was mentioned in the Minors Protection Law, there are no substantive punitive consequences … Therefore, protection orders applied in this way (to divorce cases) will be beneficial for children during divorce proceedings, when there can be uncertainty over custody.”

    According to Zhang, efforts to prevent children from witnessing domestic violence are important as children may be inclined to copy the behavior if they are regularly exposed to it. 

    State broadcaster CCTV has reported that the number of personal safety protection orders issued nationwide for domestic violence cases jumped from 52% in 2016 to 77.6% in 2022.

    In another batch of model cases released on Saturday, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Supreme Court highlighted domestic violence against women. In one of the cases, a wife put under a state of extreme psychological stress as a result of her husband’s threats of self-harm was issued a personal protection order.

    In its commentary, the Supreme Court said that “mental violence is no less harmful than physical violence.”

    Editor: Vincent Chow. 

    (Header image: IC)