An eastern China city is planning to release a database that would enable couples planning to get married to look into their partner's history if there are any reports or charges of domestic violence, being the first of its kind in the Asian nation.
A collection of reported abusers
According to The New York Times, the Yiwu government in the eastern part of Zhejiang Province stated that the database consists of information on convicted abusers in China as well as individuals who have been subjected to restraining orders or detention since 2017.
The software would also include individuals who have been officially charged with domestic violence against their partners, elderly, or siblings.
The All-China Women's Federation, which is a state-backed organization, said the database is the first of its kind in China and will be updated in real-time starting from its release on July 1.
The vice-chairman of the Yiwu Women's Federation, Zhou Danying, said that most of the time, individuals only learn of their partner's involvement in domestic violence after getting married.
It was also noted that the creation of a search database, individuals can learn their partner's history before marriage and have time to reconsider their decision. Zhou emphasized that the database was created to prevent and reduce the possibility of being involved in domestic violence.
Domestic violence has been rampant in China for a long time, and until 2001, abuse was not considered as a legal ground for divorce. The Asian country had also only recently passed a law that made assaulting a partner a crime in 2015, as reported by CNN.
Advocacy groups have noted that enforcement of the law in China remains inconsistent and ever-changing. A 2018 report by the Human Rights Watch stated that courts regularly allowed abusers to go free, urging their victims to make peace with their abuser.
Another, more recent change in legislation, implemented a cooling-off period that lasted for 30 days so that couples have time to think about their relationship before deciding on divorce, as reported by The Guardian.
Some courts have also emphasized for pride to avoid a decision that results in divorce. In 2017, a Guangxi province court claimed they were able to save an ending marriage by having the couple reconcile as it repeatedly denied a woman's request for divorce with her husband who allegedly put a knife to her throat while their child watched.
Problems with the software
The main issue the database will encounter would be the lack of history on individuals who have had a lack of law enforcement placed on them.
A Chinese expert on gender issues, Zheng Shiyin, said that the system would only recognize domestic violence records that are available from official channels.
The reality of the situation is that records are more often than not challenging to issue, causing severe difficulties for victims to provide enough evidence to apply for things such as a personal safety protection order.
The database also poses considerable risk regarding privacy as the All-China Women's Foundation (ACWF) stated applicants would be required to provide an ID, proof of marriage, and comply with confidentiality agreements. It also noted that copying or disseminating the information they gather from the register is illegal.
The software comes after a sudden surge of domestic violence cases in China amid the coronavirus pandemic. The event comes as the United Nations cautions countries around the world of a global increase in partner abuse due to social restrictions, trapping victims with their abusers and negating their calls for help.