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Even men can suffer domestic violence

By Zhang Zhouxiang | China Daily | Updated: 2016-12-10 08:58

Even men can suffer domestic violence

The Mentougou district court in western Beijing recently issued a restraining order on a woman to protect her husband, surnamed Zhang, from domestic violence. It is the first such order to be issued in Beijing, and one of the first of its kind nationwide.

The court order, not surprisingly, has sparked a debate on social media. While many netizens have expressed sympathy for the man, some say they do not believe a man can be beaten up by his wife. A few have even made fun of Zhang, saying he is "not man enough" and "a true man should fight back".

There is a common misunderstanding about domestic violence in China. When people talk about domestic violence, they envisage a man beating up his wife. That to a large extent is true, especially because men in general are of better physical build than women. But that does not necessarily mean only men can be bullies.

Last May, in a primary school in Huaiyuan county, East China's Anhui province, a 13-year-old boy unidentified by the media bullied his entire class of seven. He is shorter than the rest of his classmates and does not have any physical advantage, yet he succeeded in bullying his classmates because of aggressive character. That happens in many families, too.

Another common misunderstanding about domestic violence is that it is a family affair in which the judiciary should not intervene. This idea runs so deep in some people's minds that they have even invented precepts to support their view: A good judge does not pass rulings in cases related family affairs; No one can be innocent in a fight; The victim must also have faults.

When incidents of domestic violence happen in some rural areas, relatives and friends of the family often intervene only to persuade the victim to forget the physical pain and humiliation for the sake of "maintaining peace in the family" and some victims even agree to it, which often leads to more severe domestic violence. An All-China Women's Federation survey shows that victims call the police after suffering domestic violence 35 times on average.

Worse, some judiciary officials seem to share that view, too, and thus adopt a laissez-faire attitude toward domestic violence. There have been too many cases in which police have refused to detain the perpetrators of domestic violence, claiming that it is a "family matter". This belief is so widespread that last July researchers at Hunan police academy held the first training course for police officers to teach them how they can help domestic violence victims.

And surprisingly, even during the training course, some officers insisted on not intervening in family matters, because they could not distinguish between normal family matters and domestic violence.

That's why the Mentougou court's restraining order is important. It not only breaks the common impression that only women suffer domestic violence, but also shows the judiciary's firm determination to protect all domestic violence victims. This, in the long run, will help improve the rule of law in China.

It may be not possible to root out domestic violence from Chinese society within a short period, but we hope at least the common misunderstanding about domestic violence can be removed from people's minds.

The author is a writer with China Daily. zhangzhouxiang@chinadaily.com.cn

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