By Andrea Zarate
More than 15 years have passed since the 1995 International Women’s Conference in Beijing spurred the creation of several NGOs tailored to combat domestic violence against women. Now they’re expanding the reach of their aid, partnering with lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women’s organizations in a national march toward gender equity.
Groups such as the Anti-Domestic Violence Network (ADVN) have linked up with LBT organizations such as Beijing Lala Club and Tongyu to craft a national anti-domestic violence law that would protect all women, regardless of sexual orientation.
“There is no specific article or item about lesbian community [in the national anti-domestic legislation proposal]. The draft is just very basic,” said Zhang Li, senior communications director of ADVN. She added she hopes that in the future the government will specifically address the LBT community in the anti-domestic violence law.
Though the law has yet to be enacted, its creation signals a shift in the staid attitudes of some.
“People think now more and more that men and women are equal,” said An Ke, president of Beijing Lala Club. “Now we need to show that gay people and transgender people are equal too.”
For some LBT organizations, that equality comes in the form of equal protection against domestic violence for women, no matter which sexual group they identify with. As more people in China begin to identify themselves openly as members of the LBT community, the issues they face—such as domestic violence—gain more attention.
Funded by ADVN in 2010, the Domestic Violence Against Lesbian and Bisexual Women in China report drew attention to the more marginalized women facing this issue.
According to the report, only 55 percent of LBT women who experienced violence in the home sought help, a large contrast to the 84 percent of women in general who sought help from NGOs, their workplace, or family members. The report indicated only 3 percent of the gay victims sought help at the Women’s Federation, which is backed by the Chinese government and has the most input in creating the national anti-domestic violence law. ADVN said the Women’s Federation has yet to show interest in LBT issues.
The study also urged government officials and public service workers to be more proactive in dealing with lesbian and bisexual women who are involved in instances of domestic violence.
“The public generally is not that open to talk about lesbian issues especially when you talk about the violence they face,” Zhang said. “That is why we are … fighting to put this issue on the table and let people know of its importance.”
ADVN is also building bridges with various NGOs such as Women’s Watch, Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling and Service Center, as well as with experts and activists to promote collaboration with LBT organizations.
“Before [collaboration with Tongyu] we were just working for women’s rights in general,” Zhang said. “We had never thought about the lesbian community. But now they come [to our meetings] and they are also very active. They bring a lot of new ideas. They have a voice in the anti-domestic violence movement.”