Harbin city shatters taboos with landmark policy against abuse of women

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 September, 2014, 4:10pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 October, 2014, 3:44pm

Harbin city is set to enforce a landmark regulation protecting women against violence – but it has also stirred debate online for covering touchy issues such as a husband’s right to cut off financial support.

The newly drafted Harbin City Women’s Rights Protection Regulation, which was championed by the local government’s women’s federation, is different from other protection policies in places like Shanghai because it specifically targets sexual harassment.

The regulation bars husbands, after divorce, from harassing their ex-wives and her relatives. It also encourages swift and efficient responses to sexual harassment in the workplace.

But other clauses in the policy sparked strong reactions from netizens before it takes effect on November 1, the Chongqing Morning News reported on Friday.

One line defines domestic violence as physical attacks, intimidation, placing them in isolation, torture involving starvation and also “cutting off financial support”.

Some Weibo users singled out the latter, questioning whether the regulation was discounting instances when withholding money from a wife could be justified, such as when a woman spends beyond the family’s means.

”What if wives control the money at home, humiliate their husbands and let them lose face? This is common in society,” one user said. “What about their husbands’ rights?”

Overall, the regulation – which was explained by the state-run Harbin Women’s Federation and the legal working group of the Harbin Municipal People’s Congress standing committee in a news conference on Thursday – was praised for stronger protection of women’s rights.

Article 22 states that a husband, after his wife has terminated the relationship, should not harass, insult, threaten or become violent towards the woman or her relatives.

Article 23 states that employers and managers shall take measures to prevent and stop sexual harassment against women in public places and the workplace.

It says women must report sexual harassment to the police, the managers at her company and related authorities. The relevant authorities should “respond immediately” to such reports.

The article stressed the responsibility of the women’s federation and public security bodies to handle and process harassment complaints in a timely manner.

The regulation came about in response to a rise in domestic violence against women in Harbin, the largest city in Heilongjiang province with a population of more than 10 million.

Research showed that domestic violence cases in the city increased by an average 2.7 per cent each year, and 90 per cent of the victims were women.

The State Council in 2011 cited research on women’s social conditions as saying that one in four Chinese women experienced domestic violence such as physical and mental abuse.