On 4 March 2015, the Supreme People’s Court hosted a press conference, attended by officials from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Ministry of Public Security, and Ministry of Justice, to announce their jointly drafted and long-awaited policy document (translation here) on domestic violence, on which the Supreme People’s Court took the lead. (The Domestic Violence Law has not yet been promulgated. The intention is to create an effective anti domestic violence system, incorporating principles common to other jurisdictions as well as international domestic violence legislation. The United Nations, the American Bar Association, the Australian government, and many other international and national institutions and organizations have worked with the Supreme People’s Court and other Chinese institutions for many years on these issues, to assist the Chinese institutions to understand domestic violence law and practice elsewhere in the world. This blog has highlighted earlier work by the Supreme People’s Court on domestic violence. Some of the highlights include:
- Domestic violence includes violence between family members and others who live together in relationships, such as guardianship,support, foster care, cohabitation (it intends heterosexual relationships and may (or may not include homosexual relationships).
- The authorities need to intervene timely and efficiently, to protect the safety and privacy of victims;
- Collect evidence of domestic violence in a timely manner, including objects on site, undertakings by the victim, witness statements, as well as from the community obtain medical records, photos, videos, and other evidence.
- Respect the intention of the victims;
- Provide special protection to juveniles, the elderly, the disabled, pregnant and nursing mothers, and the severely ill through legal assistance and other measures;
- Encourage the community to report cases, including friends, neighbors, coworkers, hospitals, schools, kindergartens, and other institutions and entities;
- The authorities (public security, procuratorate, courts) must protect the privacy of persons making accusations or reporting domestic violence who do not want their identity revealed;
- The authorities must make arrangements to ensure the health and safety of victims;
- If the accused aggressor is permitted to be out on bail, the aggressor can be order to stay away from the victim and juvenile children;
- It sets out principles concerning the abused spouse/partner defense;
- Cases must be quickly and efficiently investigated, accepted, and transferred (to avoid the “buckpassing” that occurs, to the detriment of victims);
- In less serious cases, the authorities should make use of undertakings by aggressors not to commit the offense, apologizing to the victims, compensating the victim, and other non-criminal measure;
- Courts should use measures to protect the safety of victims and other dependents, such as ordering the aggressor to leave the home, forbidding the aggressor from approaching the victim, and other protection orders.
The Supreme People’s Court also issued model/typical five domestic violence cases to illustrate issues such as:
- domestic violence includes elderly violence;
- domestic violence includes violence to children;
- domestic violence includes violence to persons living together who are not married;
- domestic violence includes maltreatment to the point of causing the victim to commit suicide.
Many of the provisions of the opinion address outstanding problems that the Chinese justice system has in dealing with domestic violence–disregarding it as a “family matter,” revealing the identities of those who report it, recognizing beatings,forced overwork, mental and physical torture as abuse.
This opinion is intended to deal with the many domestic violence issues that have arisen and which have caused a great deal of public controversy. Implementing it will require a great deal of hard work, including a change in attitude among many in the police, prosecutors, and courts.