All-China Women's Federation Proposes, Highlights Need for Draft Anti-Domestic Violence Legislation

February 2, 2010

The All-China Women's Federation announced in November 2009 a proposal for national anti-domestic violence legislation and called for the draft legislation to be included on the National People's Congress legislative agenda. China currently does not have specific anti-domestic violence legislation in place at the national level, leaving unclear both the definition of domestic violence and the responsibilities of various government departments and social organizations in preventing and curbing domestic violence. Treatment of domestic violence cases, therefore, varies by locality and by government entity.

On November 25, 2009, the 10th Annual International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, an official from the Party-controlled All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) announced that it had drafted proposed legislation on preventing and curbing domestic violence. The group will continue to develop the legislation and submit it to the National People's Congress, according to a November 28 Women's Watch-China (WWC) article.

The ACWF was not the first organization to put forward draft legislation. According to a November 18, 2002, Xinhua report, the China Law Society had submitted proposed anti-domestic violence legislation at a symposium the previous week. The two proposals overlap in several areas, according to a November 26, 2009, People's Daily article, which described provisions as including: a clear definition of domestic violence, clear assignment of the government's responsibility in domestic violence prevention and treatment, clear specification of what constitutes "societal aid" and "administrative interference," clear specification of the content that should be used in civil protection orders (or personal safety protection measures), new consideration for "judicial protection," and "breakthroughs in legal responsibility."

The draft anti-domestic violence legislation comes at a time when, according to a March 2009 Xinhua report (via China Daily), the problem of domestic violence is escalating and poses a "severe threat to women's rights in China." Jiang Yue'e, head of the ACWF's rights and interests department warned in this report that "conjugal violence has grown into a potential threat to social stability." ACWF statistics cited in the WWC article reveal that the ACWF receives 50,000 domestic violence complaints annually. This is an increase over the reported 40,000 per year from 2005 to 2007 and up from 20,000 in 2000 as reported in a 2008 CECC analysis. The November 28 WWC article also reported that, of the 50,000 domestic violence complaints reaching the ACWF system annually, the number of cases involving the wounding, crippling, and even killing of victims is beginning to rise. In addition, victims are beginning to report complaints of emotional abuse and sexual violence, according to the article. ACWF statistics cited in a November 27 People's Daily report disclose that domestic violence occurs in nearly 30 percent of China's 270 million households.

Despite the reported prevalence and severity of the domestic violence problem in China, several hurdles continue to impede the progress of effective prevention and treatment. According to experts cited in a January 13, 2010, Radio Free Asia article, challenges in domestic violence prevention and treatment include reluctance on the part of public security organs, the procuratorate, and courts to "interfere" in what they consider to be internal affairs of the home; insufficiently open discussion in Chinese society about actions and behavior that constitute violence against women; and a judiciary that is not independent. The November 28 WWC article also states that different local governments' regulations and policy documents provide different definitions of domestic violence, presenting an additional barrier to dealing with domestic violence consistently across locales.

Several national-level laws contain provisions to regulate domestic violence, including the revised Marriage Law (April 2001), the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women (as amended August 2005), the Criminal Law (as amended June 2006), the Public Security Administration Punishment Law (March 2006), and the Civil Procedure Law (revised October 2007). However, these laws do not clearly define domestic violence, assign clear and concrete legal responsibilities, or outline the roles of government departments and social organizations in prevention, punishment, and treatment, as reported in a 2008 CECC analysis and in the November 28 WWC report. Twenty-seven provincial-level jurisdictions now have specific anti-domestic violence regulations and policies in place; however, in the absence of national legislation, treatment of domestic violence issues varies by locality and government entity, according to the WWC report. On July 31, 2008, the ACWF and six other government organs (the Central Propaganda Department, the Supreme People's Court, and the Ministries of Public Security, Civil Affairs, Health, and Justice) jointly issued the Opinions on Preventing and Deterring Domestic Violence which appeared to increase the government's responsibility in handling domestic violence cases, as reported in the 2008 CECC analysis. However, advocates continue to express concern regarding the growing problem and to call for national legislation on domestic violence, as reported in the November 27, 2009, article and a January 12, 2010, People's Daily article.

At an All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) meeting that opened on January 11, 2010, Deputy Director and First Member of the Secretariat of the ACWF, Huang Qingyi, announced that the ACWF would strive for the inclusion of anti-domestic violence legislation into the national legislative agenda "as early as possible," according to the January 12 People's Daily article. The National People's Congress is scheduled to hold its third plenary session in March 2010, according to a December 28, 2009, CCTV Finance report. It is unclear whether proposed legislation on preventing and curbing domestic violence will be included on the agenda.

For more information on domestic violence in China, see Section II―Status of Women in the Congressional-Executive Commission on China 2009 Annual Report.