US Woman Becomes Hero for Battered Wives in China

Kim Lee, the American wife of celebrity English teacher Li Yang, has become the focus of media attention in China after she used her weibo account to publicize evidence that her husband had brutally beaten her. AP reports on how her story has helped launch a debate in China over domestic violence:

Domestic violence everywhere lives in the shadows, and in China it thrives in a secrecy instilled by tradition that holds family conflicts to be private. It is also hard to go public in a country where many still consider women subservient to their husbands, and there is no specific national law against domestic violence.

At least one in four women in China is estimated to have been a victim of domestic violence at some point in her life, surveys show, with the rate in rural areas as high as two out of every three women. The violence takes many forms, from physical and sexual assault to emotional abuse or economic deprivation.

Lee’s case has spawned tens of thousands of postings on Chinese Twitter-like sites, along with protests and talk show debates. It is especially explosive because she is a foreigner, at a time when China is particularly sensitive about how it is understood and treated by the world.

“A lot of people said, ‘Oh, is it because Kim is an American and so she’s too strong-willed, or her personality is too strong?’…Some others have asked whether she is making a big fuss over a small issue,” says Feng Yuan, founder and chair of the Anti-Domestic Violence Network in Beijing. “This shows that in terms of the public perception of domestic violence, we still have a long way to go.”

Read more about domestic violence in China via CDT, including a recent article in Ms. Magazine, “Wives Caught in China’s ‘Web of Abuse.’

April 21, 2012 11:26 PM
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