Activists have largely welcomed China’s first national anti-domestic violence law, although some criticised the apparent omission of sexual violence and its failure to cover gay couples.
The law approved Sunday by China’s legislature will take effect in March, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Women’s federations and civil organisations have been pushing for a law to protect victims of domestic violence for more than 10 years.
In that time, almost all the country’s provinces have instituted regulations against domestic violence.
Part of the battle was a traditional belief that family conflicts are private, which an official alluded to at a news conference on Sunday when announcing the law.
‘Relations between family members are complex, it is this complexity that has caused us much delay in promulgating this law,’ said Guo Linmao, a member of the legislative affairs commission of the legislature.
Xinhua said the law defines domestic violence as physical, psychological and other harm inflicted by family members with beatings and verbal threats listed as examples. It protects children and the elderly as well as cohabiting, unmarried heterosexual couples.
People in immediate danger can file for a personal protection order that can require the abuser to move out of the home and the court must rule within 72 hours.
Longtime campaigner Feng Yuan welcomed the law, but said it doesn’t protect gay partners or state clearly whether sexual violence is covered.
‘It cites physical and psychological violence, but it does not say clearly whether sexual violence is also violence,’ she said.
At least one in four women in China is estimated to have been a victim of domestic violence at some point in her life, surveys show, with the rate in rural areas as high as two out of every three women.
The violence takes many forms, from physical and sexual assault to emotional abuse or economic deprivation.