Hong Kong strengthens same-sex domestic violence laws

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Hong Kong will implement an amendment to its Domestic Violence Ordinance this week designed to protect same-sex couples against violence.

The Ordinance (DVO) was first introduced in 1986 to enable spouses or people in heterosexual, cohabiting relationships to seek injunctions against violent partners.

The Secretary for Labor and Welfare, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said: “The amendments to the DVO are made in light of the fact that similar special power interface, dynamics and risk factors between heterosexual cohabitants might also exist between same-sex cohabitants in intimate relationships and render the victims reluctant to report to the police the abusers’ acts of violence.”

However, he stressed that the amendments “should not be regarded as equivalent to giving legal recognition to same-sex relationships”.

At the first announcement of the plans to introduce the law in June 2009, Cheung Kin-cheung said: “Noting that the intimate relationship between same-sex cohabitants may entail similar special power interface, dynamics and risk factors as in the relationship between heterosexual cohabitants, and that violence incidents can quickly escalate into life-threatening situations or even fatality, we propose to extend the scope of the Domestic Violence Ordinance from covering only heterosexual cohabitants to include also same-sex cohabitants.”

The Legislative Council in Hong Kong approved the legislation on a third reading on 16 December, extending it to same-sex cohabiting couples, former cohabitants, and children of the same.