Chinese City to Let People Search Their Partner’s Domestic Violence History Before Marriage
The Covid19 pandemic has led to an uptick in domestic violence, especially against women, as people are stuck inside homes, increasingly frustrated with nowhere else to go. This uptick has led the city of Yiwu in eastern China to attempt to solve the problem by creating a searchable domestic violence database that lets people check their partner’s history of violence before getting married.
The database will record a history of violence against any family member, not just a spouse or partner. It will make available records of people who have either been convicted or detained over a domestic violence dispute, or received a restraining order. The city government will also ensure the database remains confidential, in order to respect its citizens’ privacy. Those who want to search the database will have to provide their, as well as their partner’s, ID, and their application to the marriage registry office. This measure is to ensure the search is only conducted by people for marriage-related concerns, further aided by a confidentiality agreement which, if broken, will bring “legal consequences.” The database also restricts each person to two searches a year.
“Many times, the marriage parties only know whether the other party has domestic violence after marriage. By establishing an inquiry system, the marriage partner can know whether the other party has domestic violence records before marriage, and consider whether to enter a marriage to achieve prevention and prevention. The purpose of reducing domestic violence,” Zhou Danying, vice chairman of Yiwu Women’s Federation, tells Peng Mei News.
On the surface, this seems like a well-intentioned policy, but keeping in mind China’s history of building a surveillance state, the privacy issue arising from making people’s criminal data available to the public (even on a request basis) makes the new policy suspect. The ambiguity of detentions for domestic violence, especially in the context those that get flagged in such a database unaccompanied by convictions, throws into question the information that can be gleaned from making such history a matter of public record.
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The introduction of public criminal registries, such as India’s sex offenders registry, is often a knee-jerk reaction from a government under pressure more than it is a well-thought idea that seeks to ensure long-term solutions. In India, as in many countries of the world, domestic abuse is either not fully defined, or viewed through a patriarchal lens that keeps it decriminalized. Where domestic abuse survivors are not guaranteed due process, mental health resources, and a survivor-centric justice framework, domestic violence rates remain high, and reporting of such incidents remains abysmally low. For example, most people subjected to domestic violence know their perpetrator, which often detracts them from submitting official complaints for fear of consequences for their family member. Taking these issues into consideration, any database that seeks to provide a comprehensive resource for people trying to ensure their safety is doomed to fail.
In addition, the basic premise of the database also fails to address a deep-seated cultural ignorance of domestic violence and its pervasiveness. Would people really suspect their husband-to-be, for example, of being a domestic abuser, to the extent they manage to steal their ID and go to the government for answers? Without exposure to the problem on a wide scale, it’s difficult to expect people to access solutions.
The domestic violence database, upon closer scrutiny, serves as yet another example of a band-aid solution to a larger, more complicated problem — rape culture. When met with a stark rise in numbers, such as the uptick in domestic violence under Covid19 lockdown, it’s understandable that governments and societies would look for ways to prevent domestic abuse. But quick-fixes, such as a database that’s mired in privacy and applicability concerns, cannot be a viable solution.