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How China Implements Law Against Domestic Violence?

Sun, 27 Dec 2020
Categories: Insights
Editor: Lisa Bi


In its fifth year of implementation, the Law Against Domestic Violence is expected to play a more effective role in protecting the victims of domestic violence.

On 31 Jan. 2019, Fang Yangyang(方洋洋), a 22-year-old girl from Fangzhuang Village, Dezhou, Shandong Province, was abused to death by her husband and parents-in-law due to her inability to conceive, weighing just 30 kg at the time of death.

On 1 Mar. 2016, 3 years before the case, China’s Law Against Domestic Violence (反家庭暴力法) came into force. Today marks the fifth anniversary of this law since its promulgation on 27 Dec. 2015.

Fang Yangyang's case indicated that the implementation of this law should be more effective.

On 9 Apr. 2020, Equality(为平), an anti-gender based violence NGO in Beijing, released a report titled “Four Year Monitoring Report on Implementation of the Law Against Domestic Violence of the People’s Republic of China (1 Mar. 2016-29 Feb. 2020)” (反家庭暴力法实施四周年监测报告), which reflected the reports of the Chinese media on anti-domestic violence, and helped us better understand the situation of the Law against Domestic Violence.

Click here to download the report, which provides a brief description in English and the full text in Chinese.

I. Domestic violence in media reports

According to the report, “From the implementation of the Law Against Domestic Violence on 1 Mar. 2016 to 31 Dec. 2019, the media reported a total of 942 murders related to domestic violence, causing the death of 1,214 people ( neighbors and passers-by involved),  of which minors accounted for nearly 7%. As quite a number of cases that caused multiple deaths did not report the number of deaths by sex,  it can be determined that at least 920 women (including girls) died, accounting for 76%, which means that, on average, at least three women die every five days due to domestic violence.”

Among the cases reported by the media, violence between spouses or cohabiting partners accounted for 57%; violence between parents and children or violence between other close relatives accounted for 27%; violence during the pursuit of love or after the end of love/marriage/cohabitation accounted for 16%. 

II. The implementation of the anti-domestic violence mechanism

1. Mandatory reporting mechanism

Article 14 of the Law Against Domestic Violence stipulates that schools, hospitals, residents' committees, villagers' committees and other organizations have the obligation to report domestic violence to the public security organs (police).

However, it is rare to see the media reports these organizations fulfilling their reporting obligations. It is presumably due to the fact that the staff of these organizations often treat domestic violence as a common family conflict and mediate it, without realizing their obligation to report. 

2. The police’s dispatch and issuance of a warning letter

Articles 15, 16 and 17 of the Law Against Domestic Violence stipulate that after receiving a report, the police should investigate. If domestic violence constitutes a public security event, the police should punish it; if not, the police should issue a warning letter and notify the residents' committees or villagers' committees, who shall supervise the parties to stop committing domestic violence.

According to the data disclosed by the Ministry of Public Security, during the four years of implementation of the Law Against Domestic Violence, various public security organs in China have participated in mediating and resolving over 8.25 million family conflicts and disputes, and prevented and stopped over 6.17 million domestic violence.

Some public security organs at the grassroots level are also exploring various mechanisms, such as detaining perpetrators when necessary, in order to deter them more effectively.

Some public security organs at the grassroots level have specified the concrete process of warning mechanism, and have started to implement the mechanism in practice. For example, from January to August 2019, the Public Security Bureau of Bao’an district, Shenzhen issued 221 domestic violence warning letters, an increase of 453% compared to the previous year. 

At present, the main challenge for public security organs to deal with domestic violence has changed from non-intervention to effective intervention, that is, to protect the rights and safety of the victims of domestic violence, while reducing the surge in workload caused by repeated police dispatch, and reducing the life threat faced by the police.

3. Rescue and shelters

Articles 15, 18, and 19 of the Law Against Domestic Violence stipulate that public security organs should inform the civil affairs departments to provide shelters for victims, the civil affairs departments should set up temporary shelters, and the legal aid organization should provide legal aid services.

However, the assistance from civil affairs departments or the shelters being set up is hardly seen in the media reports. All the information about shelters almost only relates to the women organizations and some non-government organizations, which indicates that the public security and the civil affairs department have not shouldered the responsibility of sheltering and resettling victims.

With regard to the establishment of shelters by women organizations, according to an interview conducted by the All-China Women Federation in 2016, there had been more than 2,000 shelters for domestic violence in China, providing shelters service for 149 victims. The national figures have not been further updated since then. Although there are persistent news reports that new shelters are being built in various places, the media is also asking why these shelters are hardly or rarely used. 

4. Personal safety protection orders

Articles 23-32 of the Law Against Domestic Violence stipulate the details of personal safety protection orders,  the issuance of which is increasing year by year.

Nationally speaking, since the implementation of the Law Against Domestic Violence, though the exact number of personal safety protection orders application in each year is unknown, the issued number is gradually increasing—687 in 2016, 1469 in 2017, 1589 in 2018, and 2004 in 2019. By the end of December 2019, the national courts had issued 5749 personal safety protection orders in total.

However, for the victims, the probability of obtaining a personal safety protection order is not high. On average, only 30-40% of applications have been approved. The general reasons for disapproval include: the application exceeds the statutory time limit; the evidence submitted by the applicant is insufficient. 

III.  Our comments

The Law Against Domestic Violence provides a way for the victims of domestic violence to seek protection, and actually plays a certain role.

However, in the story of Fang Yangyang mentioned at the beginning, she died after being abused for half a year, during which the Law Against Domestic Violence did not effectively protect her safety. 

The case of Fang Yangyang has aroused widespread concern among the Chinese public, reflecting a higher expectation of the Law Against Domestic Violence by the public.


Contributors: CJO Staff Contributors Team

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