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Lawmakers mull separate law to protect domestic-violence victims


15:45, November 05, 2011

BEIJING, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) -- In establishing the "Crazy English" concept, celebrated teacher Li Yang had people shouting out English phrases in order to learn the language. Now, however, it is his American wife metaphorically calling from the rooftops, accusing him of domestic abuse.

And the Chinese public and government seem to be hearing the phrase "domestic violence" loud and clear right now.

Days apart from Li Yang's allegedly beaten wife, Kim Lee, filing for divorce recently, the prayers of lawyers calling for tighter legislation on domestic violence seem to have been heard. According to a report approved by China's top legislature on Oct. 29, lawmakers are considering whether to make a separate law against the crime.

Although there is no clear timeline for when a decision will me made, if brought into practice, the proposed new law will be the first of its type in China. It would potentially allow police to crack down on abusers and give people such as Kim Lee more solid grounds to prosecute.

The skeleton in Li's cupboard was exposed after his wife posted pictures online in August showing injuries to her face and knees. Kim Lee filed for divorce on Oct. 27. It's not clear whether she demanded compensation for the abuse.

Domestic violence appears to be prevalent in China. According to statistics released by the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) on Oct. 21, nearly one in four Chinese women have experienced domestic abuse.

However, few of them see justice served. "Most domestic-violence victims cannot get timely and effective assistance or protection due to lack of an anti-domestic-violence law," Jiang Yue'e, an ACWF official, was quoted by Legal Daily as saying.

Chen Aihua, director of a Shenzhen-based NGO focusing on preventing domestic abuse, said that there are only a few vaguely-worded clauses concerning domestic violence scattered in several laws, and they fall short of addressing practical problems.

Chen Wei, vice chairwoman of the China Law Society's marriage and family law branch, said that a separate anti-domestic-violence law would bring more cases in court. Chinese people typically regard domestic violence as a private affair which courts should stay out of it, she said, but a separate law will make it clear that it is a legal matter.

Aside from people failing to recognize domestic abuse as a crime, another major obstacle is the scarcity of evidence.

Statistics from the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court show that in any randomly selected 100 divorce cases, an average of 28 see the wife saying they have experienced abuse at their husband's hands. Among them, an average of eight demand compensation, with only one winning the lawsuit, the rest failing for lack of evidence.

Chen said a separate law will solve this issue, by clearing out such matters as who bears burden of proof, who maintains evidence, and whether the police should issue injury verification reports for the victims.

Chen also suggested that measures aimed at preventing domestic violence in the first place should be included in the new legislation.

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