After decades of feminist movements in the West, women’s rights seem to have improved substantially. However, domestic violence against women remains a global phenomenon.
According to a 2015 study by the United Nations on violence against women, victims came from virtually all walks of life, regardless of their social, education and income classes.
And the family is the prime source of physical violence against women across the globe.
The report also said many women actually started falling victim to domestic violence since childhood. And in many cases, people who committed domestic violence against their female family members were those who witnessed physical family violence or encountered physical family violence when they were young.
The percentage of the female population that has faced family violence at least once during their lifetime in Denmark, Estonia, Romania, Germany, Belgium, Turkey, Sweden and the United Kingdom ranged from 19 to 36 percent. Countries and regions whose percentage was below 26 percent included Ireland, Portugal, Japan, the Philippines and Hong Kong.
In particular, the UN report said only 6 percent of Hong Kong women have faced domestic violence throughout their lifetime, among the lowest percentage in the world.
However, rather than being proud of our world No. 1 rating, I have reservations about the accuracy of the 6 percent figure suggested by the report, as I believe the findings could have been skewed by several factors.
First, the UN report only cited the 2005 figures on domestic violence in Hong Kong, which could have significantly undermined the timeliness of the Hong Kong part of the report.
Besides, the UN report only put emphasis on domestic violence against intimate female partners while ignoring other kinds of victims, which means the study was not comprehensive.
Last but not least, as the Hong Kong police started to categorize domestic violence as “family dispute cases” in 2008, it is estimated that at least 90 percent of domestic violence cases in our city could have gone under the radar over the past decade.
Also, it is important to note that after 1979, almost three million immigrants from mainland China have settled in Hong Kong, and about one-third of them came from Fujian province and the Chaoshan area in Guangdong province.
To put that in perspective, native mainland female immigrants from Fujian and Chaoshan currently account for nearly 20 percent of the total female population in Hong Kong.
As we all know, the Fujian and Chaoshan communities are notoriously patriarchal, and it is not uncommon for men to beat up women. Nor is it uncommon for Fujian and Chaoshan seniors, both male and female, to inflict corporal punishment on their younger relatives whenever they misbehave.
Given all these factors, I am truly doubtful about the UN notion that only 6 percent of Hong Kong women have faced domestic violence throughout their lifetime.
In order to eradicate the nasty tradition of beating women, not only do victims have to fight back when beaten for the first time, but those who have committed domestic violence must also be brought to justice in order to send a clear message to society that there is zero tolerance for physical violence against women.
Medical surveys have suggested that long-term exposure to domestic violence could lead to both physical injuries and emotional trauma, and that one-fourth of homicide cases could have stemmed from domestic violence.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 14
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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