China Takes A Huge Step Forward By Passing Its First Anti Domestic Violence Law


In April 2015, five Chinese feminist activists gained the attention of global media headlines for their arrest after protesting against domestic violence issues in the country. It caused a major uproar among activists and feminists worldwide, but thankfully the women were eventually released.

It seems their protest, as well as many others where women donned blood-stained wedding dresses to raise awareness of intimate partner violence, was not in vain, because at the end of 2015 the government announced it had drafted its very first anti-domestic violence bill.

Further capitalizing on this momentum, China has now signed this bill into law, which will officially take effect in March 2016. The new law protects married and unmarried couples by targeting family violence. While in some countries partner violence is already a crime, in China, cultural restraints previously dictated that any form of violence in the home is a private matter and should not be a public issue.

The new law covers physical and psychological abuse, including verbal threats, and makes it easier for alleged victims to obtain restraining orders. People in immediate danger can file for a personal protection order that can require the abuser to move out of the home and the court must rule within 72 hours.


According to the Communist Party-run All-China Women’s Federation, about one quarter of women have suffered violence in their marriage, though only some 40,000 to 50,000 complaints are registered each year. Additionally, almost 90% of cases reported in 2014 involved abuse by husbands of their wives.

The new law is a much welcome step forward for victims of domestic violence in the country, however there is one glaring omission being brought up by activist organizations – it doesn’t protect LGBTQ couples. Homosexuality is not illegal in China, but this new law does not include specific measures addressing the problems within the gay community.

When asked why LGTBQ people were left out of the new measure, Guo Linmao, a member of the Legislative Affairs Commission of parliament’s standing committee, said this law was created in response to the issues surrounding domestic violence that have been getting attention – namely, only females, not gay couples.

“There are a lot of examples of domestic violence between family members, and also between people who cohabit. As for homosexuals in our country, we have not yet discovered this form of violence, so to give you a certain answer, it can be said that people who cohabit does not include homosexuals,” he said.


The Associated Press reports that women’s organizations in China have been campaigning for a law like this for over a decade, and in that time nearly every Chinese Province has enacted some sort of regulations against domestic violence.

Another major omission is the specification of sexual violence. With rape culture being a major aspect of intimate partner violence and gender violence globally, some activists believe measures protecting victims from sexual violence need to be part of the new law.

“It cites physical and psychological violence, but it does not say clearly whether sexual violence is also violence,” said Feng Yuan, a longtime campaigner against domestic violence.

The issue of sexual violence between couples has certainly had a troubled and long history. Marital rape only became a punishable crime in the United States in the early ’90s, however there are still a handful of states that prosecute marital rape differently to rape outside of marriage, giving the impression that there are some unspoken “exemptions” due to partnership. Consent is defined in various ways, and provides loopholes for abusive partners not to be charged with rape.


Domestic violence laws need to protect ALL people, and encompass ALL forms of partner violence, whether that be physical, mental, psychological, sexual or even financial. We applaud the Chinese government for responding to the cries of protesters and activists drawing attention to the female victims, although it sounds stupid of them to say they haven’t included gay couples because of the lack of noise being made about them.

Perhaps this is an important opportunity for activists, protesters and organizations to continue the fight to ensure the domestic violence law becomes an all-encompassing comprehensive measure which will protect the lives of every Chinese citizen.

With at least 1 in 4women in China estimated to have been a victim of domestic violence at some point in her life, the rate in rural areas as high as two out of every three women, this new piece of legislation is just the beginning in what needs to be a long road toward progressive anti-violence measures.