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    Amid Gaps, China Makes Gains in Fighting Domestic Violence: Report

    Compiled by a Beijing-based nonprofit, the report analyzed all publicly available media reports and cases since China’s landmark law against domestic violence came into effect on March 1, 2016.

    Eight years after China introduced a landmark law against domestic violence, a new report has found that additional provincial laws have broadened its reach, courts have implemented more protective measures, and awareness of domestic violence has increased.

    The report, released Thursday by Equality, a Beijing-based nonprofit focused on combating gender-based violence, analyzed all publicly available media reports and cases since the law on domestic violence — also known in China as “family violence” — came into effect on March 1, 2016.

    While recognizing progress, the report also underscores ongoing challenges. It noted that some departments lacked understanding of the law’s requirements, highlighting the need for more effective enforcement and enhanced training for frontline staff.

    Wide in scope, the 2016 law unified existing provincial laws and emphasized domestic violence as a critical national issue. It covers physical and psychological violence against spouses, children, the elderly, and even unmarried partners.

    Among its key features is the introduction of “personal safety protection orders,” allowing for rapid court intervention. These orders can restrict a perpetrator’s contact with the victim and mandate temporary relocation to ensure safety, and require a court decision within 72 hours, or 24 hours in emergencies.

    Eight years on, the report found that 18 provinces have also implemented supporting legislation, expanding the definition of domestic violence and clarifying its scope of application.

    Additional measures include the introduction of a mandatory reporting system, personal safety orders, and a nationwide monitoring system.

    According to the report, the number of personal safety protection orders issued by the Supreme People’s Court has increased steadily over the last eight years. As of August 2023, courts across the country had issued more than 15,000 personal safety protection orders since the domestic violence law came into effect. In 2022, the number of orders issued was 34% higher than the previous year.

    Last November, the Supreme People’s Court published 10 model cases involving domestic violence for courts nationwide to follow, nine of which were related to personal safety protection.

    “I’m delighted to see the introduction of more laws and that more people are now aware of the definition of domestic violence,” said Feng Yuan, co-founder of Equality. “However, some departments lack a comprehensive understanding of laws against domestic violence, which hampers their ability to meet the needs of those affected.”

    The 2016 law identifies over 20 different authorities as responsible for handling related cases. Yet, according to the report, only seven of them have managed to fulfill their obligations under the law.

    “The effectiveness of a law is determined by its enforcement,” Zheng Ziyin, deputy director of the Guangdong Lawyers Association Specialist Committee on Child Law told Sixth Tone. He added that while legislation has improved over the years, significant challenges remain in its application.

    Echoing similar concerns, Feng said: “Despite thousands of courts nationwide, I wonder why only over 2,000 personal safety protection orders are issued annually.”

    Zheng also recommended the establishment of a specialized police unit focused on child protection and domestic violence. Such a move, he said, along with improved training for frontline staff, could significantly enhance the law’s impact.

    “Some police officers are even unaware of how to issue a warning letter,” Zheng said, calling for a more effective use of warning letters to deter domestic violence.

    Such letters serve as an official caution from the police to perpetrators, instructing them to cease harming victims. They not only act as a deterrent, but can also be presented as evidence in court proceedings.

    Editor: Apurva.

    (Header image: A slogan against domestic violence on a street in Haikou, Hainan province, Nov. 26, 2008. VCG)