Publicity urged for law on marital rape

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 November, 2003, 12:00am

Many women in Hong Kong are unaware it is a crime for husbands to rape their wives, even though the law against this has been in effect for 16 months, according to a law professor and women's rights advocates.

They are calling on the government to launch a public education campaign to promote the law and help improve gender equality.

Chan Yu, director of the Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres, said she was aware that there had not been a single prosecution since the law was passed in July last year.

Based on a survey of 114 women carried out by the centre in August, 40 per cent of women were not aware of the law, although 68 per cent agreed that the law could further protect women's rights.

'We are disappointed that the government seems to be reluctant to give the public a better understanding of the law,' Ms Chan said.

'We are not encouraging women to use the law to bring actions against their husbands. But the law can educate people to respect women's rights. However, the law will become useless if the government continues to hide it from the public,' she said.

Robyn Emerton, assistant professor at the Department of Law at the University of Hong Kong, shared her views.

Dr Emerton said she believed most women in the city would be reluctant to take legal action against their husbands for rape, but the law could 'provide women more comfort - it is another step towards getting full gender equality in Hong Kong'.

Meanwhile, John Bacon-Shone, director of the University of Hong Kong's social sciences research centre, called on the government to set a time frame to pass a law against stalking.

Such a move was proposed by the Law Reform Commission in October 2000.

He said Hong Kong was at least five years behind other jurisdictions in protecting people from being stalked.

Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand had had such a law in place for several years, he said.