Beijing: China has drafted its first national law against domestic violence, with activists hailing it as a step forward in a country where abuse has long been sidelined as a private matter.
The new law formally defines domestic violence for the first time and streamlines the process for obtaining restraining orders -- measures that anti-domestic abuse groups have advocated for years.
"Over the years, we've many times felt powerless ourselves to help victims," said Hou Zhiming, a veteran women's rights advocate who heads the Maple Women's Psychological Counselling Centre in Beijing.
"If this law is actually enacted -- because the issuing of a draft means it will now enter the law-making process -- we will be very pleased," said Hou, whose centre is one of China's longest-running anti-domestic violence organisations.
"At the very least, there's finally movement on this law," she said.
But advocates also say the draft law, released by the Legislative Affairs Office of China's State Council yesterday, excludes unmarried and divorced couples and falls short in some other areas.
Julia Broussard, country programme manager for UN Women, said that UN agencies were "thrilled" to see the law made public after more than a decade of efforts by Chinese advocates, "but we did note right away that it doesn't extend to any non-family relations".
"We know that domestic violence is also occurring in the context of other relationships not defined as family relationships," including dating, cohabiting and same-sex couples, Broussard said.
"And so, our concern is that some of the violence is not going to be addressed by the law," she added.
Less than two decades ago, physical abuse was not even acceptable as grounds for divorce in China. In 2001 the marriage law was amended to explicitly ban domestic violence for the first time.