Today marks the third anniversary of China’s implementation of its landmark Anti-Domestic Violence Law. Earlier this week, Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, released a three-year monitoring report (in Chinese) on its handling of family violence cases since 2016, which offers a glimpse of the law’s effectiveness on a national level and what specific trends need closer attention.
According to statistics from the domestic violence information platform associated with the Hangzhou Women’s Federation, in 2018, the number of reported incidents saw a 6.87 percent decrease from the year before, marking the first drop since the law’s introduction. A notable change last year was that an increasing number of victims used electronic means such as texts and WeChat messages to file complaints, in addition to more traditional filing mechanisms such as telephone calls and visits to local police stations.
The report notes that public awareness about legal protections of domestic violence victims reached an all time high last year, as more and more incidents were reported by relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors of victims.
When it comes to minors subjected to domestic assault, there was a steady growth in such cases. In 2018, Hangzhou saw 214 family violence offenses involving minors and 170 of them were cases where minors were targets of attack. Meanwhile, 20.6 percent of them were secondary victims who live in homes where partner abuse occurs. More than 60 percent of assault cases involving minors were reported by neighbors and strangers who happened to witness violence.
The report also reveals a growing number of male victims of domestic abuse in the city. It acknowledges that while women still make up the vast majority of victims, men can be victims, too. And just like female victims, they often deal with intense self-doubt and anxiety before reaching out for help. In some situations, male victims can feel reluctant to come forward because of the widespread idea that men can’t be hurt by women, which leads them to believe that domestic violence laws and resources don’t apply to them.
When China passed the Anti-Domestic Violence Law in 2016, it was celebrated as a milestone victory for women’s rights activists and victims of family abuse in the country. In the years since, the law has not been immune to criticism over its major loopholes and poor enforcement practices.