Originally from remote Sichuan province, Feng Yuan worked as a journalist for 20 years striving to be a voice for gender equality. In 2000, she cofounded the Anti-Domestic Violence Network (ADVN). With a focus on engaging and educating people across disciplines, ADVN works to change the Chinese public’s view of domestic violence (DV), while advocating for stronger laws to protect victims. Based in Beijing, ADVN’s interdisciplinary platform has been used in 28 provinces.
Q. DV in China seems to be epidemic. How do Chinese view the issue?
A. We did a survey on the prevalence of DV and found about one-third of families experience it. When we say DV it’s not limited to just physical.
One woman who was interviewed explained how her partner abused her physically and mentally. The interviewer asked, ‘Do you think this is DV?’ She said no. This example shows that many people suffer from abuse but they don’t see it as DV because in the traditional Chinese vocabulary there is no such word. The gender system [and DV] is not just based on physical or economic strength. It depends on mentalities, social networks, public opinion, social norms and its structure and policies.
Q. How did ADVN start?
A. In 1998, a group of around 10 women started to discuss how we could address the gender based violence issue in china. At that time we thought DV against women was a good entry point. We started a pilot project on how to build multi-sector partnerships to deal with the issue and how to do capacity building with different professionals like police officers, medical professionals, journalists, lawyers and judges, community workers and mediators.
Q. With what perspective does ADVN come at the issue of DV?
A. We believe we can only deal with this as a power issue. DV is from a disparity of power, an unequal relationship between men and women. With that understanding we can help women and also help the perpetrators to get out of the trap of the old gender issues.
Every person involved in our projects gets gender training. We think that is a better way to ensure that they have the proper attitude to work with this issue.