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Domestic Violence in Spotlight

The Ministry of Public Security confirmed yesterday that police will handle cases of domestic violence differently to regular family disputes.

The move is part of a regulation to be issued by the ministry on how to deal with family violence, and it aims to better protect victims, a document from the ministry's public security management bureau, said.

The document said the setting of a new case type would help the police better understand the severity of such incidents so they might take appropriate and timely action.

Police generally treat domestic violence as a family dispute, and are therefore sometimes slow to react. To redress that, the regulation places a legal duty on the police to assist victims and stipulates that police response must be immediate or they will face punishment.

Figures from the All-China Women's Federation show that about 30 percent of Chinese families, some 80 million, have experienced domestic violence. About a quarter of the 400,000 divorces registered each year result from family violence.

Besides, the federation has received about 50,000 reports of domestic violence over the past two years, with an annual growth rate of 70 percent.

"Women are the victims in most cases," Mo Wenxiu, the federation's vice-chairwoman, said.

Figures from police in Shenzhen, south China, show that in the first half of this year, 26 people died as a result of domestic abuse - 13 percent of all the deaths resulting from crime.

However, although China has laws and regulations concerning domestic violence, they lack details for prevention and punishment.

The traditional idea is that family violence is a private matter and the variables involved prevent effective policing, Liu Bohong, deputy director of the Women's Studies Institute of China, said.

"But violence is not a private issue, it is a crime."

Liu said the regulation to be issued takes a practical approach to how police should handle family violence.

Li Meijin, a professor with the Chinese People's Public Security University, said the new rules send a clear signal: "Those who commit domestic violence must be punished."

However, Liu said police intervention alone was not enough. She said many victims were unwilling to turn to the police, so communities should play a bigger role.

She said the country should also consider how to help victims escape abuse, and pointed to the shelter that was set up by the Ministry of Civil Affairs last year in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, to offer temporary help for run-away female victims.

Liu said that sexual, emotional, psychological and economic abuse should also be classed as domestic violence.

(China Daily August 2, 2007)

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