March 25th, 2014 marks the day the UN and the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) celebrate the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women and Girls. The day emphasizes ending family violence by raising awareness and by making it everyone’s responsibility.
Tomorrow, the UN and the Government of China call for everyone to work together to address the issue of domestic violence in families. Domestic violence persists as a global pandemic, with estimates of up to 70% of women experiencing domestic violence in their lifetime. This year, the UN and the All-China Women’s Federation focuses on the impact of violence within the home, particularly on children, who often suffer by being exposed to domestic violence as well as victims of domestic abuse.
China is experiencing a shift in how domestic violence is approached and penalized. Once considered a “family matter”, the issue of domestic abuse is receiving more attention, given an increase in media reporting and individual cases. The root cause of domestic abuse is a power imbalance between women and men in the family and society. Anyone can become a victim of domestic violence but some groups are more vulnerable to abuse including women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Domestic violence is defined by any violence or abuse committed by intimate partners, spouses and/or caregivers in the home. Children who grow up witnessing and experiencing violence are at a high risk of perpetuating this cycle.
Alain Noudehou, the UN Resident Coordinator in China said, “Violence within a family has terrible consequences not just for those individuals, but also on the larger community and within society as a whole. Global evidence clearly demonstrates that impact of domestic violence can have major financial, social and emotional costs that can lead to long term damage. Yet, we know that violence within a family can be prevented. By changing social norms and ending gender discrimination, to empowering families with better coping strategies to manage daily pressures, to making sure we have strong laws and protection mechanisms, we can address it, if all stakeholders are engaged.”
To date, 125 countries around the world have laws that penalize forms of family violence. In China, the Family Violence Law, which has been drafted and is awaiting final passage through the National People’s Congress, would provide comprehensive national legislation on family violence.
The UN Inter-Agency Task Force, which was instigated in May 2012, has been working closely with the Government of China on drafting legislation that intends to provide comprehensive protection for all forms of family violence. That includes physical, mental and sexual abuse or neglect by a family member. The International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1999 and is held every year on the 25th of November. The International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women is a day for everyone to work together in a concerted effort to raise awareness, challenge social norms, and advocate for the adoption and implementation of comprehensive laws to protect.
In commemoration of the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women, the All China Women’s Federation (ACWF), in collaboration with the UN Inter-Agency Task Force against Family Violence, will host a special media event with experts that will seek to highlight the situation in China and help build momentum to prevent it.