Ending domestic violence

Figures on domestic violence tell a sobering story. Domestic violence occurs in about 30 percent of China's 270 million families, says an All-China Women's Federation report. And more than 90 percent of the victims of disputes between couples are wives.

In some cases, domestic abuse has forced victims to counter violence with violence. A 42-year-old woman, who used to work for a magazine in Beijing, is in custody for allegedly killing her husband, and faces a lawsuit. She is trying to defend herself with an album of photographs of bruised and battered parts of her body to show how cruelly she was beaten up by her husband for years.

No matter how you view it or how you interpret what happens prior to the abuse, the bottom line is that any type of violence - including physical, emotional and psychological - is uncalled for. It cannot be tolerated.

Physical beatings, the use of abusive language and manipulations all are damaging. Mental and emotional damage can be done through psychological abuse, which in some cases causes more pain than a punch or a kick.

Studies show children who witness violence at home are more likely to experience anxiety and depression, and use violence against their peers. They are also more prone to using violence against their spouses when they grow up.

The challenge to end domestic violence is overwhelming because even an otherwise honest official could reserve judgment in family quarrels. Besides, law enforcement officers refuse to rescue victims when they call for help, because they want to keep their hands off "domestic affairs".

This makes some of the victims desperate and take the drastic step to stop violence o­nce and for all by either committing suicide or killing the perpetrators. o­n the other hand, the silence of law and society gives perpetrators a freer hand to continue their abuse.

The law doesn't regard violence committed at home as a felony. And the protection it provides against many types of domestic abuse is weak.

It's time to stop beating about the bush o­n domestic violence and believing that legislators cannot take action needed to make homes a safer place.

We need to change the law and the backward attitude of the people both. But it's not o­nly men who have to change. Empowerment of women is essential for long-term change.

Unless the underlying causes of domestic violence - poverty, disadvantage, unemployment and lack of financial independence among most women - are tackled, violence in homes will not stop./.

(China Daily