If anyone should understand their obligations under Hong Kong’s laws against sexual discrimination it should be the administration and its agencies and officials who are all responsible for upholding them. Yet for more than six years now these laws have been at the centre of a legal battle with former lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung over whether government prisons should be an exception to the rule, allowing them to force short haircuts on male inmates, but not females. The former maverick legislator known for his long locks has fought a number of legal battles over the years on more weighty issues than sexist haircuts . But he will doubtless be remembered for his victory over such discrimination in the Court of Final Appeal, with a panel of judges ruling that prison staff wrongly cut his hair while in jail after protesting in 2014. It is a reminder that the fight for equality and against outdated laws and practices is far from over. One aspect that sets the case apart is the reaction of the authorities, who reportedly do not rule out cutting the hair of 1,400 female inmates as well as about 5,500 males in order to comply with the law against discrimination. Hopefully that is no more than a flirtation with the absurd ahead of an attack of common sense. Shearing the hair of women in a fragile emotional state over such issues as separation from children does not sound like a good idea. It is little wonder the reports are said to have provoked emotive reactions among them, from tears to vows of resistance. Such humiliation of prisoners and suppression of individuality are common misconceptions of the deterrent of imprisonment. There is little evidence they work or enhance the ultimate goal of rehabilitation. Hong Kong prisons float haircuts for female inmates after losing legal battle Men, it was argued in Leung’s case, are more likely to be violent, unhygienic and willing to hide forbidden items in their hair. In the top court the judges said the authorities had failed to explain why short hair was required for custodial discipline. Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li also said it was difficult to accept why individual choices should be denied to male prisoners but not females, and what this selective denial of choices had to do with a de-emphasis on individuality. The department may be considering its options. Hopefully they will not include trying to legitimise a flawed approach by inflicting it on women as well as men.