A city in eastern China is launching a system that informs people who are about to get married about their future spouse’s history of domestic violence.
The system, which comes in the form of a simple inquiry service, will be implemented beginning July 1 in Yiwu, Zhejiang province.
Residents intending to use the service only need to provide their ID and information about the individual they plan to marry.
After satisfying the requirements, they will then be informed of their partner’s abuse history, ranging from family members to older people to previous relationships.
Results will include data such as sentences for criminal cases of domestic violence, records of administrative detention and personal safety protection orders, according to The Paper.
An individual is reportedly permitted to make two inquiries a year.
China only implemented domestic violence laws in March 2016. And before 2001, physical abuse did not even qualify as grounds for divorce.
In 2011, a survey by the All-China Women’s Federation revealed that about one in four women suffered physical and verbal abuse, including freedom restrictions. Reports to the police have also been downplayed as something couples can work out themselves.
“Most of the time, people fall into family violence only after they get married. However, the inquiry system will enable people to check if their future spouses had any previous acts of violence before saying ‘I do’ at weddings,” said Zhou Danying, vice chairwoman of the women’s federation in the city, according to China Daily.
Han Jin, a lecturer of law at Harbin Engineering University, believes that the system safeguards the inquirer. “It protects a person’s right to be informed about the personality of their significant others before tying the knot, and thus protects the inquirer’s right to know which path to take for the next step.”
However, Han pointed out two possible loopholes. First, it’s unclear whether the local government can collect information from outside the city, and second, both parties should agree to provide information for a background check.
“If one party is unwilling to provide such information, then it might not be possible to submit an application,” Han said, according to The New York Times. “But the rejection of that party would also be a wake-up call. If that person is not willing to let you check on that information, do they have something to hide?”
Unfortunately, reports of domestic violence have grown as China faced its COVID-19 crisis. For instance, one county recorded 162 reports as of April 28 — three times more than the number reported during the same period last year, according to Sixth Tone.
China recently passed a 30-day cooling-off period before couples can divorce. However, the law, which will take effect next year, does not apply to families with a history of domestic violence or extramarital affairs, according to the South China Morning Post.
Feature Image Screenshots (representation only) via TreeMan