Domestic Violence

Bride's Death in China Spurs Anti-Violence Bill

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The death of a young Chinese bride in 2009 under the fists of her husband shocked the public about the lack of protection for victims of domestic violence. Now, lawmakers have a national anti-domestic violence bill to consider.

SHENZHEN, China (WOMENSENEWS)–When other brides would have been enjoying their honeymoons, Dong Shanshan was calling the police.

In the next 10 months, her calls became more and more desperate as her husband, Wang Guangyu, repeatedly beat her till she passed out and kidnapped her when she escaped. Her eight calls to the police did nothing. They declined to intervene in the affairs of a married couple.

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It wasn't until Dong was lying on her deathbed with a belly swollen from hemorrhage that the police were ready to listen to her account. By then, it was too late.

Dong's story, widely reported in late 2010, became a catalyst for national legislation on domestic violence in China. On July 14 The National People's Congress Standing Committee included an anti-domestic violence law in its legislative agenda. This followed four years of urging by the All China Women's Federation, the government agency in charge of women's affairs.

The new legislation, if passed, will provide a clear definition of domestic violence, including physical, mental and sexual abuse. It will also specify punishments. Existing laws prohibit domestic violence but only in vague terms.

Lv Xiaoquan is research director at the Center for Women's Law Studies and Legal Services of Peking University, a nonprofit organization providing legal aid to women.

"Dong's case revealed so many hidden problems about domestic violence in China," he says. "The biggest question is the police: Should they intervene in violence in the family, and how?"

He adds that the new law will only be effective if those executing it truly understand the severity of violence against women.

A third of Chinese families suffer from domestic violence, according to a survey by the All China Women's Federation in 2007, but few victims find protection from the law.

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