The Chinese city of Yiwu is set to launch a database that will allow residents to check whether their romantic partners have histories of domestic abuse before marriage, according to local media. The database — expected to roll out on July 1 — will let people in the city of 1.2 million see past detentions or restraining orders taken out against citizens across China since 2017, as well as information on any domestic abuse convictions.
There has been a stark rise in reports of domestic abuse during coronavirus lockdowns in China — and — as victims and survivors have found themselves trapped behind closed doors alongside perpetrators.
"Many times, marriage parties only know whether the other party has committed domestic violence after marriage. By establishing a query system, the marriage partner can know whether the other party has domestic violence records before marriage, and consider whether to enter a marriage," Zhou Danying, vice chairman of the Yiwu Women's Federation, told regional news outlet The Paper.
"The purpose is to prevent domestic violence," she said.
Domestic abuse wasn't explicitly outlawed in China until 2016, when partner assault was criminalized, though earlier, in 2001, domestic abuse was permitted as grounds for divorce. Chinese courts, however, often refuse to grant divorces on those grounds, instead encouraging "reconciliation" between husbands and wives, according to Human Rights Watch.
A recent change in the civil law also requires a 30 day "cooling off" period before a couple can go ahead with a divorce, which can make it harder for victims trying to flee abuse at home.
"I hope the system can be adapted in more regions and encourage authorities to be more active in accepting domestic violence cases," gender expert Zheng Shiyin told Sixth Tone, a local news website. She added, however, that there were limitations.
"The current system only recognizes domestic violence records issued by the official channels. However, in reality, such records are often hard to issue. For example, to apply for a personal safety protection order from the court, one needs to provide quite a lot of evidence, which is often hard for victims to collect," she said.
It would be forbidden to copy or disseminate information from Yiwu's new domestic abuse database, and each person looking up a potential partner would have to commit to privacy restrictions, provide information about themselves and their fiance, and only be allowed to make two searches a year.
CBS News' Grace Qi in Beijing contributed research for this report.