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Saturday, May 06, 2000, updated at 12:14(GMT+8)

China to Curb Domestic Violence

Five years ago, domestic violence was mainly a term used among people working in the field of women's studies.

Much has changed since then. Today the general public often reads about and discusses the subject, and more concrete measures have been taken to prevent domestic violence and help abused women.

The biggest change that has taken place since 1995, the year when the Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing, is that the central government and an increasing number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have started to place great importance on fighting domestic violence, said Wang Xingjuan, director of the Beijing-based Maple Women's Psychological Counselling Centre.

Though a unified national law against domestic violence may still take some time, legislation has already started in some provinces and cities. In Liaoning and Hunan provinces, local people's congresses have passed regulations to curb domestic violence, and Shaanxi Province is expected to follow suit shortly.

So far, 13 provinces, regions, cities and counties in China have passed local regulations to prevent domestic violence, according to the Working Group against Domestic Violence in China, made up of China's leading women's NGOs.

Centres like Wang's and the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), China's biggest national women's NGO, have concentrated efforts in recent years on encouraging abused women to press charges against their abusers.

"We are glad to see that more and more women are looking to the law for protection rather than allowing the cruel behaviour to continue," said Wang.

Pioneered by the Beijing Court Scientific and Technical Certification Research Institute, a number of centres have been set up in China to assess the injuries of the abused women, providing evidence if they go to court.

Official statistics indicate that about 90 per cent of the counties, cities and provinces in China have established legal counselling centres to protect women, provide legal advice to abused women and assist them with law procedures.

Since 1997, special courts have been set up in Jiangsu and Shanxi provinces to handle domestic violence cases.

Women's shelters, which provide temporary lodging for abused women, have also been opened in some areas.

NGOs, like Wang's centre and the ACWF, are taking on the responsibility of increasing public awareness of domestic violence.

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Five years ago, domestic violence was mainly a term used among people working in the field of women's studies.

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