China’s domestic violence law may include psychological harm

Beijing, Dec 21 (IANS) China’s first domestic violence law may include emotional or psychological abuse, as also cohabitation, to bring more traditionally silent abuse victims under protection, a new draft read.

“The country prohibits any form of domestic violence,” Xinhua cited the draft, which is up for a second reading at the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee’s bimonthly session, as saying on Monday.

It defined domestic violence as both physical and psychological harm inflicted between family members, including beatings, injuries, restraint or forcible limits on physical liberty and recurring verbal threats and abuse as examples.

An earlier draft, submitted in August this year, included only physical abuse, but lawmakers argued that the definition was far too narrow, said Su Zelin, deputy director with the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee.

They also argued that the anti-domestic violence law should also cover cohabitation, Su said, hence the second draft of the law stipulated in a supplementary article that those who are not related but live together are also subject to the new law.

Family violence has remained in the shadows for a long time in China, where the culture holds that family conflicts are embarrassing private matters.

As a result, domestic violence victims are often too embarrassed to speak out, and in many cases, police have turned away victims who came for help.

Only in recent years have people examined the issue in the wake of increasing public awareness and media reports on high-profile abuse scandals.

Till now, China still did not have a specialised law on family abuse — references to the matter are only made in a number of national laws and regulations, including the Marriage Law, the Law on the Protection of Minors and the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women.

According to the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF), nearly 25 percent of Chinese women have suffered domestic violence in their marriage.

According to the new draft law, victims can file for a personal protection order and the court must decide on whether to grant such an order within 72 hours. In urgent cases, decisions must be made within a day.

Police, women’s federations and social service organs, in addition to close relatives, would be able to apply for orders for those with no or limited civil capacity for civil conduct and for those who could not do so themselves as a result of physical force or threats.

Once the order is granted, courts may prohibit the abuser from domestic violence, harassing, stalking and contacting the applicant, order the abuser to move out of home or adopt various other measures to protect the safety of the applicant, according to the draft.

The orders can last a maximum of six months and can be revoked or extended based on the victims’ application.

Should the abuser violate the protection order, they will be fined up to 1,000 yuan, be detained for up to 15 days or face criminal charges in serious offences.

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