Eradicate, Prevent all Forms of Violence Against Women, Girls

May 15, 2014
By Liu BohongEditor: Leo Yin
Eradicate, Prevent all Forms of Violence Against Women, Girls
The Chinese Government, women's organizations and various NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) should work hard — or much harder — to fight all forms of violence against women, in the same way that they have combated domestic violence. [Women Images]

The Chinese Government, women's organizations and various NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) should work hard — or much harder — to fight all forms of violence against women, in the same way that they have combated domestic violence. 

Women's Demands

Two decades ago, just after I had accepted the position of researcher at the Women's Studies Institute of China, under the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), I was told the Fourth World Conference on Women would be held in Beijing. I was fortunate to assist with the preparations for the NGO forum (during the Beijing conference). My main responsibility was organizing the attendance of Chinese women's representatives.

The forum was composed of several workshops. We had to determine which topics to include on the agendas for those workshops.   When my colleagues and I participated in the Asian and Pacific Symposium of Nongovernmental Organizations on Women in Development, which was held in Manila, the Philippines, in November 1993, we learned that women in the region were concerned about violence against women, in addition to the issues of women's political participation, women's employment, women's education, women's health, poverty alleviation, and environmental protection. After we returned to China, we proposed that China should host a workshop during the forum that would address violence against women. The leader of the forum's organizing committee at that time did not accept the proposal.

Prior to the Beijing conference, various women's NGOs held forums in Africa, Europe, Latin America and West Asia. During each forum, women in each region voiced their strong desire to fight violence against women. I attended one forum, on women, violence and human rights, which was hosted by Rutgers University, in the United States. The forum's hostess, Charlotte Bunch, a well-known feminist activist in the US, said in her speech that she had discovered, during the Second World Conference on Women, in 1980, that feminism might not have the support of all women throughout the world. However, the proposal of eradicating violence against women could win the support of all women.

That meant violence against women was a global phenomenon, and that the eradication of that violence was a common goal of women.

We reported the situation to the leader of the forum's organizing committee, who agreed to include a workshop, dealing with violence against women, on the agenda of the Beijing conference.

That workshop was to be hosted by the China Women Judges Association. Ma Yuan, then-Vice-Minister of Justice, took charge of the preparation work. Organizers conducted research into violence against women in China. During their research, they discovered that violence against women still existed in China, even though China had introduced the concept of gender equality, and even though the Chinese Government had adopted gender-equality laws shortly after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

As a result of the efforts, the eradication of violence against women was one of the four strategic objectives listed in the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), which was approved by the Fourth World Conference on Women. 

The BPFA stipulated: "The term 'violence against women' means any act of gender-based violence (against) women … whether occurring in public or private life … Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace. Violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms."

Among the recommendations contained in the declaration, the authors urged governments the world over to: "Take integrated measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women; study the causes and consequences of violence against women and the effectiveness of preventive measures; and eliminate trafficking in women and assist victims of violence due to prostitution and trafficking."

Fighting Domestic Violence in China

The Fourth World Conference on Women promoted the idea of eliminating violence against women in China.
    
I recall having visited a village, in Hebei Province, to promote the conference. While there, I met some of the villagers, and I asked some of the men if they had ever beaten their wives. They all answered "yes." In traditional Chinese culture, family abuse was not prohibited. There is an old saying in China: "Quarrels and disputes between couples are a way of showing affection." After they have heard that saying, some foreigners have said to me, "I do not understand why Chinese couples show their affection by way of disputes."

Over the years, governments and women's organizations, at various levels, have made tremendous efforts, throughout China, to promote the idea of eradicating domestic violence against women.
 
First, the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, amended the Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China in 2001, the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests in 2005, Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Minors in 2006, and the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Disabled Persons in 2008, to make domestic violence illegal.

Furthermore, all of China's provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have adopted laws and regulations prohibiting domestic violence. In 2011, a national law against domestic violence was included on the NPC's legislation plan. In March 2008, the China Institute of Applied Jurisprudence, under the Supreme People's Court, published the Guide for Hearing Marriage Cases Involving Domestic Violence.

Second, the Chinese Government has formulated programs and plans of action to eradicate violence against women. 

Clauses, with the objective of preventing and prohibiting violence against women, were included in the National Program for Women's Development (1995-2000), (2001-2010) and (2011-2020), each of which was formulated by the Chinese Government to promote women's development. Clauses aimed at preventing and deterring domestic violence against women, and at combating the trafficking in women, were included in the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010) and (2012-2015).

Third, efforts have been taken by various ministries to fight domestic violence. In July 2008, the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the ACWF and the ministries of Public Security, Civil Affairs, Justice, and Health have worked together to formulate guidelines to govern efforts to eradicate domestic violence. Those guidelines stipulate the obligations of each ministry in the fight against domestic violence. 

Fourth, the Chinese Government has made great efforts — and achieved successes — in promoting the idea of eradicating domestic violence against women. In 2002, China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast the series "Do Not Talk with Strangers," which raised people's concern about domestic violence. Furthermore, the government hosts various public events each year, on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to promote the eradication of domestic violence against women, and to encourage young people to participate in the activities.

Fifth, women's organizations throughout China, including women's federations and grassroots NGOs, have made progress in their efforts to combat domestic violence. They have conducted research and gained an overview of the situation and causes of domestic violence in China.

They have also made efforts to push forward legislation aimed at combating domestic violence. In addition, they have worked with various government departments, at all levels, to take action to stop domestic violence.  They have established hotlines, and provided legal assistance and psychological counseling to victims of domestic violence. 

Fighting all Forms of Violence Against Women

When representatives — with their experiences in combating domestic violence — from women's organizations in China attended the Asia-Pacific NGO Forum on Beijing+10, and when they communicated with their counterparts from other countries and regions, they were surprised to learn that women's organizations in the Asia-Pacific region generally focused on all types of violence against women, even though domestic violence was the most common form of violence against women.

In concluding comments by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, after having reviewed China's report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women in 2006, the committee commended China "for the explicit prohibition of domestic violence in the amended Marriage Law of 2001 and for other measures taken to address violence against women." But the committee remained concerned by "the lack of comprehensive national legislation on violence against women that also provides access to justice and means of support for victims and punishment of perpetrators, and the lack of statistical data concerning all forms of violence against women."
The committee urged China to "adopt a comprehensive law on violence against women, and to ensure that all forms of violence against women and girls, both in the public and private spheres, constitute a crime punishable under criminal law." 

The UN requires that every government take action against all forms of violence, not just domestic violence. The BPFA stipulates: 

"Violence against women encompasses but is not limited to the following:
(a) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family; (b) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution; and (c) Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs."

Other forms of violence against women, in addition to domestic violence, still exist in China. Such violence includes sexual assaults on girl students and rural left-behind women, sexual harassment of women at work, sexual violence during on-line dating, trafficking in women, the selective abortion of girls and the violence against women while carrying out the family planning policy.

In conclusion, I think the Chinese Government, women's organizations and various NGOs should work hard — or much harder — to fight all forms of violence against women, in the same way that they have combated domestic violence. Why? So we can guarantee women and children's human rights and freedoms, and so we can ensure women have the same rights that are enjoyed by men.

(Source: Women of China English Monthly 2013 November Issue)

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