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China prohibits domestic violence in new law
04:06 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

China enacts long-awaited domestic violence law

Violence in the home traditionally considered a family matter

Same-sex couples are excluded from the law

Hong Kong CNN  — 

After a decades-long push, China has finally enacted its first nationwide law prohibiting domestic violence.

The ground-breaking legislation covers both married and co-habiting couples and those living in foster families. It comes into force March 1, state news agency Xinhua reported.

It also defines domestic violence for the first time, and includes pyschological abuse as well as physical violence.

However, critics say there are still gaps – it excludes same-sex couples and makes no mention of sexual violence.

Until 2001, when China amended its marriage law, abuse wasn’t considered grounds for divorce and violence in the home has traditionally been regarded as a private matter to be dealt with by family members.

The high-profile divorce in 2013 of Li Yang, the founder of the “Crazy English” teaching method and his American wife Kim Lee, forced the issue out of the shadows, Xinhua says.

Kim Lee, wife of "Crazy English" founder Li Yang, leaves a court building in Beijing March 22, 2012.

In 2011, Lee posted pictures of her bruised face on Chinese social media and accused her husband of domestic violence. She later said in an essay in the New York Times that police had told her no crime had occurred.

Li admitted beating his wife but attacked her for breaking with Chinese tradition and discussing private matters in public. The episode triggered a massive public debate on domestic violence.

The All China Women’s Federation estimates that one in four married women has experienced domestic abuse, according to state media.

Deng Xiuxin, a member of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said the law was a good move but could be hard to put into practice.

“We need to clarity the responsibilities of different departments and invest money and human resources, such as social workers,” she told the China Daily.