Chinese city unveils nation's first searchable domestic violence database

Chinese city unveils nation's first searchable domestic violence database
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The Chinese city of Yiwu on Wednesday announced it will launch what has been called the country’s first searchable database of convicted domestic abusers.

Officials in the city, in the country’s eastern Zheijang Province, said the database will feature information on convicted abusers and people given detention or restraining orders since 2017. Charges covered include violence against partners, elders and siblings, The New York Times reported.

The state-backed All-China Women’s Federation said the database will be updated in real time following its July 1 launch.

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“In many cases, the parties involved only know about domestic violence after marriage. By establishing an inquiry database, partners can know beforehand and consider whether to marry,” Zhou Danying, vice chairman of the Yiwu Women’s Federation, a government agency involved in developing the database, told Shanghai-based news outlet The Paper. “The purpose is to prevent and reduce the likelihood of domestic violence.”

Police in China say domestic violence cases spiked during coronavirus-related lockdowns, with police departments in the U.S. noting a similar trend.

The United Nations called for action against domestic violence in April, as COVID-19 cases were rising in multiple countries.

“I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres wrote on Twitter.

China unveiled its national domestic violence law in 2016, but women in the country have said the restraining orders it mandates are rarely actually imposed. An All-China Women’s Federation survey in 2011 found about a quarter of women had suffered physical or verbal abuse or that their partners had restricted their freedoms. It also found that police frequently write abuse off as a private matter for the couple to work out.

Han Jin, a law lecturer at Harbin Engineering University, told The New York Times the law could make a profound difference but warned that convicted abusers from outside the city could potentially fall through the cracks.

“If one party is unwilling to provide such information, then it might not be possible to submit an application,” he said. “But the rejection of that party would also be a wake-up call. If that person is not willing to let you check on that information, do they have something to hide?”