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China's First Anti-Domestic Abuse Law Is Already Bringing Victims Forward

By the second day the law was in effect, at least five cases had already been announced.

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At least five suits have been filed under the protection of China's first-ever Domestic Violence Law, which first came into effect on Tuesday, marking an end to the legal vacuum and a watershed moment for China's anti-domestic violence activists.

60-year-old files China’s first suit under new domestic violence law, which took effect Tue https://t.co/qlcriybd16

One of the first personal security orders was issued to a 61-year-old woman surnamed Gu from suburban Beijing. Her husband, 59, surnamed Zhao, knelt down and said, "I promise I won't beat you anymore," as the cameras rolled.

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Gu insisted on a divorce after more than 30 years of marriage, accusing him of abusive behavior throughout that time. According to CCTV, Gu suffered severe bleedings on her head after Zhao beat her. Zhao allegedly covered her mouth and nose with a pillow, simply because "she had forgotten to cook a meal for him as he returned home from work." The restraining order will prevent any further contact from Zhao unless Gu agrees.

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The first protection order in the eastern province of Shandong was issued to Kong Suying, the wife of Rong Lanxiang, the founder of the controversial vocational school Lanxiang which was reported to be linked with cyberattack cases.

Hunan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang Provinces also each issued their first protection orders, which offer protection to the victims from the contact from their abusers for an initial period ranging from three to six months.

The issue of domestic violence had been neglected in China's recent history due to the lack of a specific law dealing with it. (A variety of measures including the Marriage Law touched upon domestic abuses but activists said they were ambiguous at best.)

The law aims to end the victim-shaming culture in China and shed light on abuses. About one third of all families have suffered from some form of domestic violence. According to Xinhua, 88% of the cases happened in 2014 involved husband abusers.

Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters

The legalization of the law has taken campaigners like Feng Yuan years of years of efforts. "The NGO Anti-Domestic Violence Network was founded in order to call for a comprehensive anti-domestic violence law," Feng said during a forum held by digital media outlet The Paper after the draft of the new law was first passed in August last year.

The high-profile case of Kim Lee, an American married to a Chinese husband first raised social awareness in recent years, after she posted photos of bruises on various parts of her body on Sina Weibo in 2011.

Alexander F. Yuan / AP

Her husband, Li Yang, is the founder of English-teaching institution "Crazy English," who claimed his institution has taught English to more than 20 million Chinese. "You knocked me to the floor. You sat on my back. You choked my neck with both hands and slammed my head into the floor," she wrote. The couple filed for divorce later that year.

Another chilling example of the wide spread of domestic violence is Xia Hongyu, who lost her right eye in 2003 when her husband dug it out with a screwdriver. The newly enacted law hopes to prevent abuse before it can escalate to this point.

The very concept of "domestic violence" is still relatively new in China. As recently as a decade ago, people referred almost casually to "beating wives" or telling friends "I got beaten by my husband."

Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images

So it's a significant improvement that the law goes beyond just a literal idea, but also covers unmarried cohabiting couples, children and elderly family members. Mental abuses are also recognized as domestic violence.

But there are still areas falling out of the radar, for instances, sexual abuses aren't specifically written done, saving leeways for rapes within marriages, while homosexual couples aren't neglected as a whole. Yet, loose wordings such as "the assisted execution from the police department," leaving a space for bureaucracy to go sour.

But the new law hasn't solved all of China's problems though. After the draft was issued in August last year, just three months later, an art show against domestic violence was shut down at the last minute by Beijing authorities.

Greg Baker / AFP / Getty Images

And while five cases being filed so quickly is encouraging, they're a drop in the bucket of the millions of likely cases each year.

Check out this helpful guide from China Law Translate:

What does China's new Domestic Violence law say again?: https://t.co/CHAUtjo8vC

Beimeng Fu is a BuzzFeed News World Reporter covering China and is based in New York.

Contact Beimeng Fu at beimeng.fu@buzzfeed.com.

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