Finally, some good news for victims of domestic abuse in China

Society & Culture

After a few bleak months for victims of domestic violence in China, some positive news finally came this week.

an illustration of a married couple in the bottom left corner in one frame, and a second frame to the right where the woman is fleeing her abusive husband
Illustration by Derek Zheng

While 2020 has been a challenging year for nearly everyone, it has been particularly tough for victims of domestic violence in China.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Chinese women were forced to quarantine with their abusers. In February, at the height of the outbreak, Chinese police reports showed that the number of domestic violence cases tripled, compared with the same period last year. Hotlines operated by nonprofit organizations were lighting up with abuse reports, but very few of the victims managed to leave home, due to travel restrictions and the closure of most businesses.

In May, China introduced its first-ever Civil Code, which contains a new clause requiring divorce-seeking couples to wait 30 days before their request is approved. The legislation was widely criticized for adding unnecessary obstacles to people who are in dire need of a divorce, especially those facing violent domestic abuse.

But in a time when the world couldn’t seem more bleak for Chinese victims of domestic abuse, some positive news finally came this week.

  • Last week, a woman in Hunan Province opened up (in Chinese) about her experiences with intimate partner violence and how hard it was to divorce her abusive husband. Her story was all over the internet, with millions of people showing support for her decision to seek a divorce again. Yesterday, she finally succeeded (in Chinese) in divorcing her violent husband. The court also gave her full custody of her child while asking her husband to provide financial support for her kid. “I feel freed,” she wrote on social media.
  • In an effort to expand the interpreted scope of China’s anti-domestic violence legislation, Guangdong Province approved (in Chinese) a new set of regulations on July 28, stipulating that minors who witness domestic violence should also be considered as victims from a legal perspective. The province also broadened the definition of “domestic violence” to include acts such as malicious defamation, stalking, and leaking personal information.
  • Around the same time, Shanxi Province issued (in Chinese) similar regulations. It also vowed to handle domestic abuse reports more efficiently and properly.
  • Today, news (in Chinese) came that a court in Hubei Province had dismissed charges against a woman who stabbed her husband while being attacked by him, ruling that the act was self-defense.