Chinese families see surge in domestic violence amid COVID-19 lockdown

By Du Qiongfang Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/12 23:48:40

Performance artists wearing wedding dresses splattered in fake blood take a stand against domestic violence on February 14 in Qianmen, Dongcheng district. Photo: Guo Yingguang

With hundreds of millions of families stuck at home due to the lockdown of Chinese cities to contain the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, instances of domestic violence have been surging, statistics from some Chinese anti-domestic violence NGOs show. 

Li Xiao (pseudonym) from the south had been stranded in her ex-husband's home in Hubei due to the lockdown of the province during her visit to her ex-husband's home to visit her dying ex-father-in-law with her daughter. Li divorced the man because of domestic violence but he beat her again during the visit because Li refused to remarry. 

According to an anti-domestic violence NGO based in Jingzhou city in Central China's Hubei Province, the total number of domestic violence cases the NGO dealt with in Jianli county and Qianjiang city in the province surged to over 300 as of March 6 since the lockdown of Wuhan, capital city of Hubei. In February alone, the number of domestic violence instances in Jianli and Qianjiang was almost double the number in the same period last year. 

Domestic violence has been a widespread problem in China as it is in many countries around the globe even though China's anti-domestic violence law went into effect in March 2016. 

According to Wan Fei, a local retired policeman who founded the NGO, the surging number of domestic violence cases has been the result of multiple factors. 

"The epidemic has changed people's lifestyle; people spend too much time at home and there has been inconvenience for their lives. The second factor is the economic loss," said Wan, who noted that local villagers' income has been negatively affected as their agricultural products and aquatic products such as crawfish and crabs don't sell well after the lockdown. 

"The epidemic has weakened most people's psychological endurance capacity," Wan noted, adding that trivial disputes surrounding children and whose parents to visit during Spring Festival could also trigger domestic violence. 

Sen Tian (pseudonym) and his 40-year-old mother Mei Hong (pseudonym) from Jianli county have been subjected to the boy's step-father's domestic violence over trivial matters in daily life since 2002. 

Mei has been beaten several times since late January when she stopped working and stayed at home due to the epidemic. She suffered from the domestic violence again on February 21 and fled their home and went to a relative's house for shelter.

According to Mei, her husband always closed the windows and doors and stripped her clothes off and beat her naked to prevent her from calling for help from neighbors, and he stalked her after the violence, preventing Mei from reporting him to the police. He also repeatedly managed to coax her to dismiss the idea of divorce by apologizing. 

Like the surge in domestic violence as a repercussion of COVID-19, a similar situation also occurred in divorces among Chinese couples. Media reports said last week that Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, has seen an unprecedented number of divorce appointments since March 1. 

"I have endured for almost 20 years, but this time I want to divorce him," said Mei who received help and gained courage from Wan's NGO, which cooperates with local police departments, women's federations, legal departments and civil affairs bureaus. 

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