People planning to get married can check if their partner has a history of domestic violence in a new Chinese database

The database will be launched on July 1 in Yiwu City, Zhejiang Province. It is backed by the All China Women’s Foundation (ACWF), an influential government-linked organization, which said in a statement this week that the plan “would prevent and reduce domestic violence.”

The system allows individuals to retrieve information related to domestic violence and personal security protection orders, similar to restraining orders, from their partners’ criminal records.

“In most cases, people do not discover that their partner is violent until after they are married,” Zhou Danying, vice president of the Yiwu chapter of the ACWF, told local media. “The investigation system allows a couple to know if the other party has a history of domestic violence before getting married.”
Law enforcement remains inconsistent, according to advocacy groups. In a 2018 report, Human Rights Watch said the courts regularly gave abusers a pass, encouraging victims to “reconcile” with the partners who attacked them. A recent change to civil law also introduced a 30-day “cooling off period” for couples seeking divorce.
Some courts have prided themselves on avoiding ending a marriage. A Guangxi province court in 2017 stated that “we have saved a couple who could be reconciled” after he refused to grant a divorce to a woman whose husband “put a kitchen knife to her throat (in front of her son ) “.

This lack of application could create problems with the new database, since people with a history of violence may not mention it in their criminal records.

“The current system only recognizes records of domestic violence issued by official channels,” Zheng Shiyin, a Chinese gender expert, told the Shanghai-based publication Sixth Tone. “However, in reality, such records are often difficult to issue. For example, to apply for a personal safety protection order from the court, one must provide a large amount of evidence, which is often difficult to collect for victims. “

There are also privacy concerns about the new database. In its statement, the ACWF said applicants would have to provide identification, proof of marriage and accept confidentiality requirements, and that it would be illegal to “copy or disseminate the information in the registry.”

The database comes amid an increase in domestic violence in China during the coronavirus blockade. The United Nations warned of a global increase in partner abuse due to restrictions, which can trap victims at home and make it difficult for them to seek help.