A long fight: Chi­nese women’s odyssey to es­cape do­mes­tic vi­o­lence

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - REFLECT - Edi­tor’s Note: By WANG AIHUA, DING CHUNYU LIUYANG in Hu­nan prov­ince Xinhua

Pseu­do­nyms have been used in this ar­ti­cle to pro­tect iden­ti­ties

Zhou Ping, 43, con­sid­ers her hus­band “very nice” sim­ply be­cause he doesn’t beat her. Her first mar­riage was dif­fer­ent. Zhou mar­ried her first hus­band in 1993, and for the next 20 years suf­fered from bru­tal, per­sis­tent do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. In 2014, with help from the women’s fed­er­a­tion and lo­cal jus­tice forces, she de­cided enough was enough, and filed for di­vorce.

“In the vil­lage that I used to live in, many men beat their wives be­liev­ing they were en­ti­tled to do so,” she says. “But luck­ily, more women are fi­nally gain­ing the courage to leave.”

Her home­town, Liuyang in Hu­nan prov­ince, cen­tral China — a city nor­mally known for its fire­works — now has a special po­si­tion in China’s fight against do­mes­tic vi­o­lence; it is home to a cross-sec­tor body, led by the mu­nic­i­pal women’s fed­er­a­tion, which ad­vo­cates rais­ing aware­ness of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence while pro­vid­ing sys­tem­atic help to abused women.

Long Huam­ing, chair­man of Liuyang Women’s Fed­er­a­tion, told Xinhua that the lo­cal law en­force­ment de­part­ments, com­mu­ni­ties, hos­pi­tals and schools have all joined hands to of­fer le­gal, med­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal help to women.

“We gather for dis­cus­sions each quar­ter,” Long says. “Eval­u­a­tions of the per­for­mances of the dif­fer­ent groups in­volved in this cam­paign are in­te­grated into our over­all work.”

The cam­paign was part of a pi­lot project launched in 2008 by the United Na­tions Pop­u­la­tion Fund (UNFPA) and the All-China Women’s Fed­er­a­tion, in an at­tempt to draw on in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence to push for the elim­i­na­tion of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in China.

Since then, hun­dreds of women have re­ceived help from the project, mainly pi­loted in Liuyang and Chengde, a city in north­ern China’s He­bei prov­ince.

Aware­ness to be fur­ther raised

Novem­ber 25 marks the In­ter­na­tional Day for the Elim­i­na­tion of Vi­o­lence Against Women. United Na­tions fig­ures show roughly onethird of women world­wide have been hit by their part­ners, and in Asia only 20 per­cent of them seek help.

In 2010 a na­tional sur­vey by the Na­tional Bureau of Statis­tics and the All-China Women’s Fed­er­a­tion showed that roughly a quar­ter of women in China have ex­pe­ri­enced some form of vi­o­lence from their part­ners.

Zhou Ping chose to en­dure her ex-hus­band’s vi­o­lence to give her chil­dren a “com­plete” fam­ily.

It was the same for Xu Ping, 45, an­other woman from Liuyang who suf­fered years of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence be­fore fi­nally stand­ing up to it.

“Luck­ily, women’s aware­ness has risen in re­cent years, thanks to pro­mo­tional pam­phlets, ban­ners, TV and ra­dio broad­cast­ing,” Xu says.

Soy­oltuya Ba­yaraa, UNFPA’s deputy representative for China, says pos­i­tive changes in gen­der norms are one of the key fac­tors to end­ing all forms of vi­o­lence. “It is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant to in­clude men and boys in the cam­paigns,” she said.

Cur­rently, over 1,500 vol­un­teers have regis­tered at the China White Rib­bon Vol­un­teers net­work, which is part of the global White Rib­bon move­ment, the world’s largest maleled move­ment to end vi­o­lence against women and girls. The net­work has es­tab­lished 36 ser­vice sta­tions across China.

Zhou Ping be­lieves her poorly ed­u­cated ex-hus­band would have acted dif­fer­ently if he knew do­mes­tic vi­o­lence was a crim­i­nal act. “Only when men re­al­ize how se­ri­ous fam­ily vi­o­lence is can it be stopped,” she says.

Sys­tem­atic help needed

Ac­cord­ing to the All-China Women’s Fed­er­a­tion, one chal­lenge is the lack of sys­tem­atic help to pro­tect women who speak out.

In Liuyang, the lo­cal court can is­sue “pro­tec­tion or­ders” for women who seek help. Women can also seek asy­lum in a govern­ment-spon­sored shel­ter and col­lect ev­i­dence of abuse at a des­ig­nated hos­pi­tal.

Zhong Huip­ing, a lawyer in Liuyang, says most abused women know lit­tle about the law, so they need le­gal ad­vice on di­vorce. “Di­vorce cases are dif­fi­cult to han­dle,” she says.

China’s first Anti-Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Law took ef­fect on March 1, of­fer­ing new guide­lines for judges. Pre­vi­ously, they could only re­fer to the Civil Law and the Law on the Pro­tec­tion of Rights and In­ter­ests of Women in rul­ing on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cases.

Zhang Yu, a po­lice­man in Liuyang, says they now take all do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cases se­ri­ously be­cause they are obliged to of­fer help.

Ba­yaraa says the Liuyang model demon­strates that it takes con­certed ac­tion by all rel­e­vant par­ties to win the bat­tle against gen­der­based vi­o­lence.

Ba­yaraa says UNFPA will sup­port pol­icy re­search and data anal­y­sis for an in-depth un­der­stand­ing of the root causes and con­se­quences of gen­der-based vi­o­lence.

Only when men re­al­ize how se­ri­ous fam­ily vi­o­lence is can it be stopped.” Zhou Ping, 43-year-old whose first hus­band beat her

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