Two weeks ago, a young woman in Shanxi Province, China jumped out of a high-rise window at dawn. Shortly before her suicide, she had posted a short message on the Wechat social network: “I always thought that domestic violence was far from me. Today I’m going through a nightmare. Fear and helplessness suffocate me. Any courage to live has left me. ”The police later confirmed that the husband had done violence to the woman. The victim’s sister told The Paper newspaper that the marriage seemed to have always been intact. Recently, however, she has had little contact with her sister because of the corona crisis.
The case highlighted a phenomenon that is largely hidden in China: domestic violence has apparently increased significantly as a result of curfews and home quarantine. This is reported by activists like Wan Fei, who works closely with the police in his hometown of Jingzhou. A single police station received 162 calls for help due to domestic violence in February – more than three times as many as in the same month of the previous year, says the head of the women’s and children’s rights organization “Under the blue sky”.
Jingzhou is located in Hubei Province, where curfews are particularly severe due to the corona epidemic. Wan Fei, a retired police officer, has no doubt that the increase in domestic violence is due to this. The spread of the virus and curfews that have been in place for two months have fueled fears and concerns in many families. There were also economic problems because people had not been allowed to go to work since the end of January. Many women’s shelters were also converted into quarantine centers. And because the courts are closed, victims cannot currently obtain protective orders.
Police officers are overworked
Feng Yuan, a co-founder of the Beijing Equality Organization, has also registered a “substantial increase” in calls for help and counseling. Particularly in rural areas, it is difficult for victims of domestic violence to get help or to get to safety. Because of the Corona crisis, roads were closed in many places and public transport was discontinued.
In some cases, police officers have told victims that the epidemic has left them so overwhelmed that they can only take care of their cases after the health crisis. “The epidemic is the overwhelming priority of authorities at all levels,” says Feng Yuan. At the same time, the government is now paying more attention to the family as the basis for prevention work. That is why, Feng Yuan appeals, dealing with domestic violence must become part of the fight against viruses.