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These women suffer physical, psychological and sexual abuse an average of

For most women who suffer domestic violence, divorce is not their
first choice, since they may lose financial resources or be forced to
leave their children if the marriage breaks up," Xia said.

"So it is crucial to be able to restrain violence."

The other reason is the unbalanced role between man and woman in a
family,” She says. “The Chinese have a traditional view that women are
subordinate to men, so men may think it is reasonable to use violence to
solve problems when there are arguments between couples. Other external
factors like gambling, unemployment and alcohol abuse also lead to more
family arguments.”
HONG KONG - There has been a sharp increase in reports of domestic
violence in Hong Kong in recent months, some ending in death. Social
workers are worried about the trend and increased calls for changes to the
city’s domestic violence law.

In March, a Hong Kong woman attacked her husband with a knife after she
suspected him of having an affair. In November, a man stabbed to death his
ex-wife and two daughters after a difficult divorce.

Hong Kong Police say domestic violence cases more than doubled in the first
three months of the year to 1,780. About a third of the cases were considered
criminal. Last year, domestic violence cases rose nearly 80 percent from
2005.

Margaret Wong, executive director of Harmony House, a charity that helps


families affected by domestic violence, says her organization has seen a rise
in requests for help and shelter over the past year.

She says some of the new cases involve migrants from mainland China,
especially women who married Hong Kong men. Wong says some immigrants
find it hard to adapt to Hong Kong’s lifestyle and they do not know where to
seek help.

“The other reason is the unbalanced role between man and woman in a
family,” She says. “The Chinese have a traditional view that women are
subordinate to men, so men may think it is reasonable to use violence to
solve problems when there are arguments between couples. Other external
factors like gambling, unemployment and alcohol abuse also lead to more
family arguments.”

Government figures show that women are most often the victims in spousal
battery cases.

Rights and social workers have called on the government to amend the city’s
domestic violence law to better protect families by expanding coverage to
divorced couples, the elderly and unmarried partners living together. They
also want court injunctions against abusers to be extended from three months
to up to two years.

The government is expected to present legislation to change the law later this
year.

While awaiting the legal changes, some Hong Kong women are taking
matters into their own hands. In Tin Shui Wai, a low-income neighborhood on
the outskirts of Hong Kong, a group of 40 housewives started a neighborhood
watch against domestic violence. The group, Star Bright, was formed after
one of the city’s worst cases of family violence in recent years - two years ago
a man killed his wife, their two young children and then himself.

Harmony House social workers, such as Heidi Ip, assist the group.

Ip says she hopes the program would empower women, help them maintain a
harmonious relationship within their families, and help each other.

In Hong Kong families often live in small apartments in high-rise buildings with
little chance for neighborly exchanges.

Social worker Alan Leung from the Catholic charity, Caritas, says many cases
that end up in tragedy usually have already been taken up by social workers.
But he says social workers are not able to monitor families all the time.

He says too often those who recognize problems in a family are not social
workers, but their neighbors. Leung adds that the government should
publicize the importance of helping neighbors and neighbors themselves
should encourage the families in need to seek help from social workers.

This year the government has earmarked an additional four million dollars to
improve family welfare and support services to victims of domestic violence.

12. In recent years, the number of domestic abuse cases has increased
consistently and the majority of reported incidents come from new towns.
Battered women often attempt suicide as a way out of their misery. A police
survey from June to August 1994 revealed that 473 women reported
domestic abuse cases, including 11 suicide attempts by battered women.(5)
This reflects only avery small part of the situation of domestic violence in
Hong Kong because many battered wives do not report to the police for
help. An indication of the extent of the problem can be deduced by the
number of calls that Harmony House, an organization for domestic violence
victims, has received. In October 1994, the figure stood at 3,000 for the past
12 months - an increase of 500 cases over the preceding year. Moreover,
Harmony House provides arefuge for battered wives and has a maximum
capacity of 40. During the year1993-94, 100 women and 114 children were
admitted. The average daily attendance rate of the refuge was 84.7%. The
number of rejected cases due to a full house increased by 100%, from 66 in
1992-93 to 140 in 1993-94.(6)

13. Moreover, battered wives rarely cite sexual offenses but only accusetheir
spouse of inflicting bodily harm. It is because traditionally a womanhas
given up her right to her body when she gets married and many women
think they are obliged to provide sex for their husbands. Moreover, thepublic
is only sympathetic to wives who are physically battered by their husbands
and pay little attention to the violation of wives' dignity. Themost serious
point is that Hong Kong still does not recognize rape in marriageas a crime.
In other words, women in the territory still lack protection from violent and
abusive husbands who regard sex as their right.(7)

14. In addition, the police receive insufficient training on domestic violence


and marital rape. When they handle a case of domestic violence, they
usually think that it is a trivial family matter and do not immediately transfer
the case to the Social Welfare Department for further investigation and
counseling. The police also rarely inform battered wives of their legal rights.
The failure of the government to provide the above-mentioned measures is
obviously a violation of article 7 of the ICCPR which provides that no one
shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment.

15. The government should set up a specific working committee, which


involves various departments, to deal with the situation. The police should
alsoassign a special task force to handle domestic abuse cases. For those
serious cases, battered women and their children must be provided housing
immediately so that they can settle down and face their new lives. Moreover,
the government should educate the public to be concerned about the issues
of domestic violence and marital rape.