China: Legislature Approves First National Law on Domestic Violence
Monday, February 8, 2016 9:55 AM

In December 2015, China’s Parliament enacted the country’s first national law against domestic violence. The new law, applicable to all Chinese provinces, replaces an ambiguous marriage law banning “domestic violence” that did not provide a legal definition of the term. The new legislation, which is set to go into effect on March 1, 2016, defines domestic abuse “as physical and psychological abuse of family members and cohabiting non-family members.” The law also allows victims to apply for orders of protection against abusers, including emergency protective orders. According to the All-China Women's Federation, at least one in four married women have suffered domestic violence in their lifetime. 

The new law “acknowledges prevention as the fundamental cure for domestic violence.” It also clarifies the responsibilities of various stakeholders in applying the law, such as government agencies, schools, medical institutions, social workers, employers and the media. The new domestic violence law also reduces pressure on the victim to self-report abuse, allowing close relatives of the victim to file a complaint and requiring Chinese “authorities to directly intervene in cases where the victim is unable or has limited capacity to report.”

According to Reuters, for many years, China resisted passing a national law against domestic violence “to avoid bringing shame upon the family in traditional Chinese culture.” Such violence was largely considered "a private matter." Women’s advocates and civil society in China welcomed the new law, although some are concerned that the legislation does not protect same sex couples or clearly forbid sexual violence in the family. They are also concerned that most of the law’s provisions lack minimum standards of accountability. 

Compiled from: Tingting, Chen, China's First Law Against Domestic Violence: It's No Longer a Private Matter, Asia Weekly Insight and Analysis (January 20, 2016); China passes first domestic violence law, gay couples excluded, Reuters (December 27, 2015); Activists welcome China's 1st domestic violence law, Associated Press (December 28, 2015).