In China, battered woman ends up getting divorce thanks to social media support

On August 13, 2019, Mr. Dou grabbed his wife and threw her to the ground. He hits her and snatches her phone from her hands to prevent her from calling the police. As she rushes for the door, he catches her, pushes her again, and locks their little clothing store. He then grabs her by the hair and drags her through the store, before giving her a few more punches. Then he leads her to the second floor to continue his work out of sight.

The last image is captured by CCTV outside the store: Ms. Liu’s body is seen crashing to the ground. In an attempt to escape her tormentor, she ended up jumping from the first floor. A fall that inflicts nine fractures on him. A year later, Ms. Liu did not regain the use of her legs, but she finally got a divorce.

On July 15, however, the court in Zhecheng, his hometown, in central Henan Province, refused his request. “According to the law on marriage, in divorce cases the court must first proceed to a conciliation”, The instance was justified in a press release published on July 24, given the extent of the reactions to the affair.

Traditional view

Ms. Liu’s case was commented on 120,000 times on the Weibo social network and viewed hundreds of millions of times, before being reported by the media, including nationally. This mobilization ended up calling on the authorities: on July 21, Mr. Dou was placed in pre-trial detention. And on July 29, the divorce was finally granted, and Ms. Liu was granted custody of her son.

The first decision of the court to impose a conciliation was not exceptional in China, where the justice privileges a traditional vision of “the peace of the households” at the expense of the victims. In 2016, the Chinese Supreme Court told the courts how to judge family cases: “The resolution of family disputes is not only about the well-being of individuals and families, but also social harmony, stability and the progress of civilization. ”

An argument repeated in a similar case in 2019 by a judge in Chengdu, in the west of the country, who also considered that it was necessary “Give the husband a chance”. Since then, the authorities have even amended the law on divorce to go in this direction: in the new civil code, adopted in May 2020, a clause imposes a “Period of reflection” thirty days for couples wishing to divorce, even if they agree. Another obstacle for women victims of abusive relationships.

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