Child custody law gives girl new life

Child custody law gives girl new life

The first child to be taken from her parents under the nation's new child protection laws now has a reason to smile - she will be raised by the woman who helped her escape a life of abuse.

The 10-year-old girl, whose parents divorced when she was 1, had been seriously beaten and sexually abused by her father until she asked for food from a woman in a neighbouring village last year. She later told the woman about what was happening at home.

Shortly after, the civil affairs department in Tongshan district in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, took custody of the girl from her father.

In October, the father was sentenced to 11 years in jail for rape and child molestation. A neighbour was also sentenced for raping the girl.

Under a regulation that took effect on Jan 1, parental custody can be taken away in circumstances that include sexual assault, physical abuse leading to severe mental or physical damage and refusing to perform the duties of a guardian.

Close relatives, neighborhood committees, government departments, child protection organisations and other guardians have the right to file lawsuits to deprive irresponsible guardians of custody, it says.

"We did a lot of investigation before depriving the parents of custody to avoid further damage to the fragile girl," said Wang Mu, president of Tongshan district court. "We made sure that her parents and relatives were incapable of performing as guardians, and that our verdict to transfer the guardianship to the local civil affairs department serves the girl's best interests."

The girl's mother, who is mentally and physically disabled, had remarried and given birth to another child in Henan province and did not want to bring her up. Other relatives on her mother's side ignored the girl.

The girl's grandparents on her father's side had passed away and no other relatives lived nearby.

The father agreed to give up custody and said he will not disturb the lives of the girl and her court-appointed guardians after being released from prison.

According to the local civil affairs department, the woman from the neighbouring village who rescued her and who has been taking care of her voluntarily for about a year was authorised as her foster mother.

"The civil affairs department will also keep an eye on the girl at the foster home and arrange counseling for her," said Li Fuda, a director of the local civil affairs department.


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