The settlement of the high-profile divorce between Li Yang, founder of the controversial Crazy English schools, and Kim Lee, his American wife, is significant in the fight against domestic violence, as the ruling conveys the message that there is a price to be paid for wife beating.
Li's ex-wife will get 12 million yuan ($1.9 million) in consideration of the property the couple shared and the custody of their three daughters. In addition, Li has to pay his ex-wife 50,000 yuan for the mental anguish he caused her, and child support of 100,000 yuan a year for each of the three daughters until they are 18. The court also granted Lee a personal protection order forbidding Li from threatening her.
As one of the very few cases of its kind in the mainland, it sends the message to Chinese women that they can use the law to prevent them from being violently treated by their husbands.
But will they be as lucky as Kim Lee?
Statistics from the All-China Women's Federation show that 24.7 percent of women surveyed in 2011 suffered different forms of domestic violence, and 5.2 percent were physically abused. It is estimated that one in four Chinese wives suffer from domestic violence. However, only 7 percent asked for help from the police. Many women consider domestic violence something that should be kept within the family instead of a criminal act that should be punished accordingly.
Traditional Chinese family ethics place women in an inferior position to men. As a result, some men, even some well-educated ones, believe they can walk free after abusing or physically assaulting their wives.
Most Chinese women choose to swallow the suffering inflicted on them and keep the skeleton in the closet. They will complain about their bad luck in marrying such a husband rather than take their husbands to court.
The lack of a specific law against domestic violence is also a reason women shun the legal means for protection. There are only sporadic specifications about domestic violence in different laws. Many courts treat such cases as family disputes and therefore it is not easy for women to get the protection they need.
The country still has a lot to do to hold the culprits legally accountable for domestic violence and ensure they get the punishment they deserve.
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