The Chinese government has passed a bill that makes domestic violence punishable. This new law, the first of its kind, protects partners in a relationship, both married and cohabiting. Children and elderly are also protected, but homosexuals and lesbians living together are not.
According to the Chinese women's federation, 25% of all women have to deal with domestic violence. On a yearly basis, however, only 40-50 thousand cases are reported. 90 % of these reports are about violent act by Chinese men against their wives. The new law, which comes into effect in March, will also ban psychological abuse.
Opponents of the law argue that the government should not interfere in family matters. In China, there is a taboo on reporting domestic violence, as family is an important institution in the country. This law is meant to alleviate the shame culture that surrounds violence, experts say.
'Relationships between family members are complex, and it is because of this complexity that it has taken so long to complete this bill,' says Guo Linmao, member of the committee designing the bill. The law does not apply to homosexual couples, questions on this subject at the press conference made clear. 'We have not yet seen that violence in homosexual couples is an issue. You could say that homosexuals are therefore not included in this law,' Linmao notes.
Homosexuality is not punishable in China, but there are no laws protecting same-sex couples either.
An advocate of the bill, Feng Yuan, stated for press agency AP that she was extremely happy with the introduction of the bill. She did comment on the exception of homosexual couples and the fact that it does not mention sexual violence.
'The law will ban physical and psychological violence, but does not explicitly mention sexual violence.'
If someone is confronted with violence, he or she can get a judge involved within 72 hours after reporting the domestic violence, in order to have the abuser forced out of his or her home.