Women, Family and Wife Abuse in Hong Kong
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
Dr. Yuk-chung Chan
Associate Professor, Department of Applied Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University