Opening up old wounds

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 February, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 February, 1995, 12:00am

THE eyebrow-raising suggestion by legislator Eric Li Ka-cheung to punish husbands keeping mistresses across the border (Sunday Morning Post, January 29) has no doubt generated some publicity. But that is all it has done.

The legislator, acting like a moral crusader, asked wives to collect evidence to prosecute their husbands for having extra-marital relationships. Does he know that this is a heart-rending exercise that can only exacerbate the traumatic experience of the long suffering wife? While the legislator may be forgiven for his ignorance of such a complex social issue, he should not have suggested criminalising adultery without first pondering its impact on our society. Isn't he aware that extra-marital affairs, though pernicious, are a widespread, perennial social problem in Hong Kong? Why hasn't the call for legal action been made until today? Isn't it because such legislation is unenforceable? Talking of protection for the family, does the legislator know that most unfaithful men feel guilty about their behaviour and give high priority to providing for their families? Abandoning their wives and children would be the exception rather than the rule in these circumstances.

On the other hand, criminalising adultery could inflict old wounds, causing some victims to turn sour by suing their husbands for gain. As one academic has pointed out, new legislation may result in an influx of prosecutions flooding our courts. Instead of helping the families it will cause further bitterness and humiliation for all concerned.

If our purpose is to preserve healthy family life in our society, then, by all means, let us channel our creative energy into positive, preventative public education designed to enhance social decorum.

This is a far more constructive and humane way of tackling the problem than the superficial, myopic suggestion made by some self-righteous politician.

C. WONG Mid-Levels