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A long journey that will help all women

By Cao Yin (China Daily)

09:06, February 04, 2013

Kim Lee is besieged by reporters after the Beijing Chaoyang District Court announced the verdict for her case in Beijing on Feb 3, 2013. (Photo/Xinhua)

I too felt relieved when Li Yang and Kim Lee's 18-month divorce case finally ended on Sunday, as snow blanketed Beijing.

The lengthy court case raised awareness of domestic violence in China, where despite cases similar to this one are far from uncommon, there is a lack of legal protection available to women.

At first, Lee was unwilling to speak publicly. She disclosed several photos showing her injured and bruised body in August 2011.

But in November 2011 at a small forum run by a Chinese NGO that fights against domestic violence, Lee made her first public speech promising to stand up and give a voice to women who have been hit and injured by their husbands.

That speech was also the first time I met Lee, who is originally from the United States.

She appeared fragile, and was sometimes overcome with emotion when answering the media's questions. Since then, she has been in the public spotlight and announced she wanted to divorce her husband.

She called for Chinese laws to be revised to protect women's rights.

Since December 2011, the case has appeared before Aoyuncun court, affiliated with the capital's Chaoyang District People's Court, on four occasions. At the beginning, the former couple argued about whether Li's behavior constituted domestic violence, while later, the issue became the distribution of the couple's property.

In an exclusive interview one year ago, Kim told me she really wanted to live a quiet life - she did not want to be in the spotlight. She said she can always return to the US, but Chinese women who have suffered domestic violence are not protected under the current laws, which is why she insisted on making her voice public.

After 18 months, the judge ruled on Sunday that Li had committed domestic violence against Lee and supported Lee's request for compensation.

But for other women who are suffering in China, there is still a long way to go. The violence inflicted on them has not been proved in court, or they may be afraid to speak out because the law is not strong enough to protect them.

With this high-profile case, Chinese lawmakers and experts have been forced to pay attention to domestic violence and provide suggestions on how to prevent women from suffering.

I think this is the most meaningful outcome of Lee's case.

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