Women, Family and Wife Abuse in Hong Kong

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Attitudes towards wife abuse are intricately bound up with the ways people look at gender roles in! the family and society. This paper delineates certain cultural features of the Chinese societies that bear on the wife abuse problem, with special reference to the role of women in the family. It also traces the emergence and development of social and legal responses to wife abuse in Hong Kong. It is argued that Hong Kong was essentially a traditional Chinese society characterized by obvious gender inequality up to the 1970s. The British political influence and the development of Hong Kong into a capitalist economy had not altered its prevailing patriarchal order. Women in Hong Kong still lived as a secondary sex in the family and in society because Hong Kong people generally lacked an orientation to see women's suffering. Given this background, wife abuse was a hidden problem. It was only brought to the attention of the Hong Kong public as a result of the efforts of local women's groups in early 1980s. Responses by the local media then played an important role in making the plight of abused women visible to the general public. Increased public attention eventually led to the establishment of first women refuge and the enactment of the Domestic Violence Ordinance in mid-1980s. Though public interest in wife abuse soon ebbed, it revived in 1990s with the emergence of human rights and women's rights consciousness when different interest groups with different socio-political orientations sprang up to lobby for change before the return of sovereignty to China. The emergence of ‘wife abuse’ and the development of social and legal responses to it represents the triumph of western ideologies such as ‘human rights’ and ‘women rights’ over traditional Chinese definition of women roles in the family and in the society.

Keywords: Wife Abuse, Hong Kong, China, Culture
Stream: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Gender
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr. Yuk-chung Chan

Associate Professor, Department of Applied Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Hong Kong, China

Dr. CHAN Yuk-chung received his Ph.D. in the Nottingham University in 1998. Currently an associate professor in the! Department of Applied Social Sciences of the Hong Kong Polytechnic Un iversity, Dr. Chan teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, and supervises MPhil and doctoral students. His academic and research interests include domestic violence and problem families in Hong Kong. For the past 10 years or so, Dr. Chan has secured more than 3 million Hong Kong dollars of research funding, and published over 20 articles in international referred journals. Dr. Chan was appointed by Government to be a board member of the Social Work Training Fund (October 2002 - now) and a non-official member of the Steering Committee on Study of Family Commission (December 2006 - June 2007). He also sits on the social service development committee of a number of NGOs in Hong Kong.

Ref: I08P0005