China Makes Domestic Abuse an Actual Crime

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(FILES) Photo dated 17 September 2002 in
On the books.Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/2003 AFP

Al Jazeera reports that China has become the latest country to criminalize domestic violence. The government-sponsored All China’s Women Federation estimates that nearly 25 percent of Chinese married women have experienced some form of abuse, and the true figure — especially in rural areas — is probably higher than that, because marital attacks are almost surely underreported. China’s 2005 Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women made some progress on the issue, but enforcement has been uneven, and many Chinese women still tend to regard domestic violence as a private matter, especially when the abuser is a spouse.

If you are surprised to hear that it’s taken till now, consider that laws specifically turning domestic abuse into a criminal act are relatively new in the West as well. The United States passed the Violence Against Women Act only in 1994, and the Council of Europe took until 2011 to propose a convention combating violence against women. Russia still has no domestic-abuse laws, and neither do many other countries around the world.

Starting Tuesday, victims will be able to get restraining orders against their abusers, sometimes forcing them out of the home. A judge will be required to rule on these cases within 72 hours. The new law applies to both married and cohabitating couples. Critics have said that the new law doesn’t go far enough because it neither outlaws marital rape nor provides health or social services for victims.