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Courts wrestle with domestic violence

Updated: 2015-11-20 07:10
By Cao Yin (China Daily)

Courts wrestle with domestic violence

Wearing a wedding dress which appears tainted with blood and holding a board which reads in Chinese "No domestic violence, no harm", a woman calls for end to domestic violence in Shenzhen, Dec 10, 2014. [Photo/CFP]

Divorce cases arising from domestic violence are brought to Chinese courts frequently but difficulties remain in hearing them, judges said on Thursday.

The problem of domestic violence remains serious despite existing laws, said Zhu Chuntao, chief judge of a civil tribunal that specializes in domestic disputes at Beijing High People's Court. Some laws need revision, and new ones need to be made, Zhu said.

"Divorces requested on grounds of domestic violence have become more common in our court over the past few years, but it's still a challenge for litigants and judges to collect evidence of violence," he said.

Of 620 divorce cases randomly sampled from 2013, 9 percent of the plaintiffs had appealed to the capital's courts because of domestic violence.

"Many couples who sought a divorce due to domestic violence had serious conflicts with each other, so we gave divorce judgments to them most of the time instead of mediating first," Zhu said.

"But few litigants provided any hard evidence of domestic violence," he said.

"As domestic violence happens, it's hard for couples to collect evidence. Some pictures of injuries from litigants don't prove they were injured for this reason. It's hard for a judge to verify."

He applauded the victim in a case that was heard at Beijing Tongzhou District People's Court for providing her call records to the police when she was physically abused by her husband. She also kept a letter from her husband expressing regret that he had hurt her.

"Such evidence is stronger than injury photos," he said.

In addition, an abused person with little evidence will also face difficulty in getting compensation for their mental suffering, even though it is noted in the current Marriage Law, he said.

Protective orders prohibiting an abusive partner from getting near a victim have been a tool of the courts since 2008, he said, but it's rare to receive such applications.

Shi Xiaohong, vice-president of Henan Provincial High People's Court, said protective orders, along with "move-out" orders requiring an abusive partner to leave the marital home, are still in the exploration stage in the country's courts.

"The protection now is not compulsory and enforcement is difficult," Shi said.

"When we give move-out orders, it's hard to make sure it's effective. There are few supporting measures now."

The judges said they hope the government will soon issue its first anti-domestic-violence law.

The concept is currently under discussion by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature.

"Some measures will be easy to shape into clear legal articles," Shi said.

Chinese courts have heard nearly 4 million family disputes since 2012, including divorces and property allocations, the Supreme People's Court said, adding that they always take up a large proportion of civil cases.

In 2014, courts in Shandong province took on 143,756 domestic disputes, accounting for 22.3 percent of the civil cases filed. From January to October, the courts heard 124,981 family cases, up 1.6 percent year-on-year.


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