Violence against women Has Deep Roots in China
In June, a group of unknown men beat a group of women and kicked them in the head in the city of Tangshan. The assailants used bottles and chairs in this unprovoked attack. In January, a woman was chained by her neck in a shack. These two incidents have caused outrage among Chinese women. People go online to discuss such matters, leading to greater activism for stopping violence against women. The activism probably won’t go very far. More on that later.
Kerry Allen is with the BBC in China. She says she sees video footage almost every day of men committing acts of violence against their wives. Constant public surveillance should lead to arrests, but that is not the case. Allen further stated that she has seen domestic violence in China, where people simply stand and watch.
Why does this happen? Much like many other cultures, there is a twisted version of masculinity that encourages sexual prowess and violence. There is a common belief in China that outsiders have no right to intervene when there is domestic violence. Another reason runs deep in Chinese culture. For thousands of years, Confucianism has called for social harmony at any cost. Confucianism regarded the household as a man’s domain, and physically “disciplining” one’s wife was part of the way to maintain needed control.
With surveillance cameras just about everywhere, Chinese officials could make a major difference. Unfortunately, they see any form of activism as a threat to their authority, so they do what they can to stop activists. They will not answer to the people. The Communist government has set lofty goals for women’s rights, but they are primarily concerned about equal rights in the workplace.
Fortunately, there is a possibility of progress soon. In 2005, domestic violence became illegal in the People’s Republic of China for the first time. In 2022, the Chinese high court issued guidelines that made it easier for victims of domestic violence to get a restraining order. It also broadened the definition of violence to include stalking, sexual harassment, and verbal assaults.
Most likely, things will not change unless attitudes toward women change. The Chinese have thousands of years of history, and change is slow.
- BBC News. Tangshan and Xuzhou: Fury and questions over China’s treatment of women. June 24, 2022
- New York Times. Battling Violence and Censors, Women in China Become ‘Invisible and Absent.’ September 6, 2022
- Wikipedia. Domestic Violence in China.
- Gender Equality and Women’s Development in China